I knew it was going to happen, but it still felt like a shock.
Last week I scrolled through Instagram and a big red “Trek” logo and trekbicyclepdx appeared where bikegallerypdx to be. Then I typed BikeGallery.com into my browser and it auto-forwarded to trekbikes.com/us/en_US/stores/pdx/.
It was the end of an era.
Bike Gallery was founded in 1974 by Bob Graves, who passed the stores onto his son Jay Graves in 1995. Jay built the business into one of the best retail bike shop chains in America and a mainstay of Portland’s dynamic bike culture before he sold the stores and retired in 2012. Since then the shops have been owned by San Diego, California resident Mike Olson (who initially partnered with former Bike Gallery employee Kelly Aicher, but Aicher moved on several years ago), who owned six stores of his own in California and New Mexico and had a long history as a top Trek retailer. Earlier this year Olson decided to “take the Trexit ramp” and sell all his stores — including six in the Portland area — to Trek Bicycle Corporation.
This past Saturday all six stores re-opened their doors as Trek Bicycle stores. On Monday Jay Graves drove into Portland to retrieve the last of his belongings from the rafters of the stores he once owned. He visited three of the stores and told me, “I was impressed with their clean look” and that he is, “Happy Trek is committing to retail in such a strong way.”
This commitment is a big move for Trek. One source said they’ve amassed about 180 locations which would certainly make them owners of what Bicycle Retailer & Industry News reported yesterday as, “the largest chain of bike shops in the United States currently, if not in all of industry history.”
“Trek gives us another level of professionalism and a lot of resources for getting things done.”
— Shannon Skerritt, Hollywood store manager
Shannon Skerritt manages the Trek Bicycle Store in Hollywood and has worked for Bike Gallery/Trek for 23 years. “Overall it’s a positive change,” he said when I talked with him a few days ago as he feverishly prepped for the big grand re-opening. Skerritt said the biggest change he’s noticed is how professional and supportive Trek has been thus far. They’ve flown in scores of top-level staff from their headquarters in Waterloo Wisconsin to oversee the transition and train employees on their retail and service vision. “Trek gives us another level of professionalism and a lot of resources for getting things done,” Skerritt said. “As opposed to how things were before which sometimes felt like we were trying to build the plane while flying it.”
Will customers notice any other changes? Skerritt said you’ll still see your favorite employees: All but two or three Bike Gallery employees in the Portland area took Trek’s offer to stick around (with at least one deciding to move to the corporate office in Waterloo, a step in the career ladder not possible prior to the sale). And Skerritt thinks you’ll appreciate a more structured and thorough approach to repairs and customer service.
Part of that boost in professionalism is a new 24-hour turnaround for all service jobs. If you drop your bike off to get fixed and they can’t meet that timeframe, you’ll be given a free loaner bike.
Owning stores directly gives Trek complete control over their brands (which include Electra and Bontrager). That means everything from marketing and merchandising to sales software and apparel offerings — all reflect Trek’s vision.
And that vision didn’t include hundreds of items on the shelves when Trek bought the stores. Instead of liquidating the products, Trek opted to make a massive donation to the Community Cycling Center. “It was very generous,” said CCC Executive Director Momoko Saunders when asked to confirm the gift. “We haven’t had time to property sort through it and understand the value, but we greatly appreciated it.”
A visit to the downtown store on Monday gave me a taste of Trek’s new vision. The displays were on-point and very organized. The showroom floor felt sparse. Part of that was by design (a clean and uncluttered aesthetic is what Trek wants), but part of that was because not all the new bikes and products had arrived.
Trek’s Director of Brand Marketing and Public Relations Eric Bjorling told me he’s excited for the chance to carry on Bike Gallery’s legacy of service and community involvement. “Bike Gallery has long been an important part of building Portland into an incredible place to live and ride,” Bjorling said, “and we plan on continuing that work.”
You’ll see Trek’s commitment to help local nonprofits at each store. From now until April 4th, they’re encouraging customers to drop a coin in one of three boxes labeled with either Northwest Trail Alliance, The Street Trust, or Community Cycling Center. The one with the most donations will receive a $5,000 grant, second place will get $3,000 and third will get $2,000.
It will take more than better service and nonprofit donations for Trek to be wholly embraced in Portland, a city famous for our devotion to small, locally-owned businesses. In the past week I’ve seen criticisms leveled at the company for their role in supplying bicycles to police agencies across the country. Trek was urged to break those contracts during the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, but they refused to do so and their statements have not satisfied activists.
I expect more skepticism to come. As the biggest bike brand in America, Trek is used to it. And they’re banking on the fact that even if you don’t like their politics, you’ll appreciate having a quality shop nearby that will fix your bike overnight and sell you a new set of tires with top-notch customer service and a smile to go with it.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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Still remember my very first bicycle piece of clothing was a red Trek hat. My buddies in high school had no clue about cycling and thought I was being a trekkie. Not that I’m not, but it was for wearing on my head while out riding my 10 speed Centurion Le Mans.
There are lots of bike shops nationwide that are selling out – it’s a good time to sell for those owners wanting to retire or cash in, plus it’s hard to satisfy your customer base when your parts suppliers are telling you that even your basic summer parts won’t be available until August or maybe even 2022.
I’m glad to hear Trek donates their unwanted parts to charities – when Performance bowed out, most of their stores sold parts well below cost and donated the rest, while many of the larger chains simply sold their inventory to the bottom-dwelling distributors like JBI or Midway.
I’ll be interested in service. Under original ownership my experience wasn’t good so I didn’t go. After it changed ownership in 2012 I gave it a new try and liked it.
If they try to help me solve little problems cheaply and quickly before pushing expensive service, I’ll keep going. If they won’t lend me an allen wrench or screwdriver to just tighten/adjust something simple, or do it quickly for free, I won’t come in for real service needs.
While this is definitely a change for Bike Gallery to solely focus on Trek, I’ve been impressed with the Trek brand for a long time. In the 1970s, my first quality road bike was a Trek 10-speed when the company only offered one frameset design with a choice of 4 types of steel tubing and 4 or 5 colors! I had mine built with an eclectic mix of now extinct components (remember Suntour or Zeus?). Loved it for over 25 years and finally donated it to Community Cycling Center. My household has had several Treks since.
I’ll miss the variety of other brands in the shop, but Bike Gallery is certainly aligning itself with a solid bike company.
Like the Apple Store, except without spyware.
And like ^that^ decades of brand equity vanish. Not a smart move on Trek’s part. When brick and mortar retailers play the game of buying up local brands and standardizing them in a vain quest for synergy, they invariably loose.
You can never beat the price, convenience or selection of online-only retailers. It’s a fools errand. They should have gone the other direction.
You know, that was Bike Gallery’s business model too, right? They started out with one shop and proceeded to buy out their competitors. Beckwith Cycles became Bike Gallery Woodstock (subsequently moved to Westmoreland). Bob’s Bicycles became Bike Gallery Division (subsequently moved to Happy Valley).
If Trek can sell their own products directly, they can either A) cut prices to eliminate the profit margin the shop owner used to make, or B) take advantage of current insane demand and print money for the time being. In either case, I don’t necessarily believe this is a fools errand.
As many premium brands have proven, you can beat price, convenience and selection with service and a great product. If the service is great and it doesn’t take 3 weeks for a tune-up and the products continue to be what they are (they seem good, though I haven’t owned one), then they could be onto something.
Unfortunately it looks like they will only be carrying Bontrager tires from now on. Tried to get some Schwalbe tires there this week and they no longer carry them like they did before. Not sure if Bontrager tires are up for “Portland” bike lane conditions given my experience with them in the past.
obvious change, sale a competitor’s tire; why would I do that?
Oh wow. Just carrying Bontager tires really makes me sad. Are they only carrying Bontrager for touch points as well?
Thanks for the tip on biketiresdirect! Cat 6 cycles on NE 42nd was able to hook me up with what I needed this time.
Same here in ATX, Trek bought bicycle sport shop. A sad day
I’m curious how they can guarantee 24 hour turnaround times. Are they hiring more mechanics? Though TBH, I’d be happy to wait more than 24 hours if I got a fun loaner.
To put a more cynical spin on it, it leaves every incentive to upsell the maximum service, and let you borrow a brand new Trek which you might just decide to buy instead of, or in addition to, the service.
I’ve had many a Trek over the years and respect the quality but I think I’ll be supporting my local Independent Bicycle Dealer instead.
I can’t possibly do business with all of them and make a complete list of recommendations, but as a rule of thumb you really do have to choose between style and substance.
What are Trek’s politics? The article mentions if I don’t like them I may still appreciate good service, but I don’t know Trek’s politics.
Trek donates to non-profits and sells products to police. Neither action should be seen as political.
The demand for bike brands to refuse to sell to police is completely ridiculous. Should clothing brands, footwear brands, etc all refuse to do business with police accounts?
This is similar to boycotting Giro since the company that ultimately owns Giro also owned a firearms brand.
That was a reference to Trek’s responses to the police bike issue. I’m aware that many people don’t feel like they’ve gone far enough on that issue.
Not sure what Trek could do other than get out of the police bike business altogether. The bikes are purchased on contract as a block. That means by the time you see Officer McProtesterWacker with a bike, it was requisitioned, paid for and delivered months (if not years) ago. Anyone can understand how seeing a Trek bike being used to assault a peaceful protester is galling. But that isn’t Trek’s fault, nor are they responsible. Nor is complaining to Trek going to have any meaningful effect on changing police behavior.
People ask themselves, “Why is this (whatever this is) still a problem?” Because too many people conflate complaining & simplistic action with hard work. Writing about Trek bikes being used by Officer McProtesterWacker is easy. Working for years to get police immunity or training guidelines changed is hard.
Thanks for this information. Please understand I’m just the messenger here. Just trying to give folks information to figure stuff out on their own. Not taking a position on this either way here.
can’t imagine all the companies who we as consumers buy products from might be in bed with bigger conglomerates who prop them up? what’s a person to do?”go with out”??? NOT!
I think it was Trek’s dishonesty about selling bikes to police that was the problem.
Kelly didn’t “move on” he was fired along with Jason Engel…who didn’t get any mention of his 26 year tenure at BG in this article. They were both fired on the spot by Mike Olsen without any warning. The author also stated only “two or three” employees didn’t opt to hire on with Trek..this is completely false. After Kelly “left” the large majority of senior staff split during that following year. We’ve had numerous former BG employees apply for a position at our shop. I’m happy they didn’t close the stores. There are a lot of great people still working there. It will be very interesting to see what happens moving forward. Looks like we will be fixing a lot more Treks this year.
Good riddance to Mike Olsen and his boot licking middle managers who had nobody’s best interest in mind but their own. Removing bonuses to employees going into the pandemic while they continued to bring in millions of dollars throughout last summer was not a good look. Some remained hopeful that their jobs would be secure and that they could continue their careers at a professional local bike shop. Once the shops were closed for the transition period, it became clear this was not the case. Employees have been fired and many others felt cornered into quitting and looking for other options. At least without Mikes blue pills and hair loss medicine on the company card there should be some money freed up for payroll.
Bike Gallery was a keystone supporter of Cycle Oregon. Anyone know if they will continue in the same capacity?
If you want to know the politics of Trek, Google “Tammy Baldwin” she is totally cool
Good for her for calling out Trek’s fake progressivism.
My Trek 520 was my favorite bike ever as a 20+ year bike commute/pleasure rider. What a workhorse. That said, was there any offer to sell BG to the employees? I always found BG a weird place to bike – it felt so corporate to me. I miss Coventry and now head to River City for my kids’ bikes. My husband is a Surly loyalist.
In one year as a Trek store, %90 of the current staff will be discarded and replaced.
Why would you say that?
Duke’s in Toronto was taken over by Trek. Within a year the original manager and many staff members were gone.
OK so it’s been a year +. Seems to be true. All the great bike mechanics & sales folks are gone. No real knowledgeable sales it seems either. Place seems empty. Not so sure I’ll how much or if I’ll be a customer there in the future which I’ve been since 1985.
I bought my 10 speed Atami Samurai, from the Graves, in 1974 at the Bike Gallery on NE Sandy Blvd. The bike’s serial number is 9176. I say “is” because I still ride it to this day. The tires have been replaced, and it has a padded cover over the perfect original seat. After 48 years the bike still looks great. Needless to say, I take care of my things. Thank you Graves.