Amid revenue decline, the CCC will shift away from retail bike shop

CCC Bike Shop on NE Alberta. (Photos: Community Cycling Center)

“The shop was quickly becoming our most expensive program despite its revenue generating purpose.”

– Jonnie Ling, CCC director of finance

Rising expenses and a decline in customers have led the Community Cycling Center to shift gears on its well-known retail bike shop. The nonprofit that has called Northeast Alberta Street its home for nearly 30 years, announced today the current shop space on the corner of Northeast Alberta and 17th will undergo a major remodel.

“Today we are announcing that we are going back to our roots of being an education center,” the CCC said in a statement.

The move comes just days after the CCC’s shop won “Best Bike Shop” in the annual Willamette Week Best of Portland poll. Despite the love, the shop just isn’t pulling its weight in the organization.

The shop had been a reliable source of funding for the organization’s other programs (such as the Holiday Bike Drive, youth summer camps, bike education classes, and so on) for years. But, a statement from the CCC said, “As  this funding source becomes less reliable with the changing landscape of cycling in Portland, we realize that we will need to diversify our offerings in order to keep up with the new and changing demands if we are going to provide community services for another 30 years.”

According to Interim Executive Director Stef Galen, the plan is to create three new spaces: a membership-based, DIY workspace; a bike repair classroom; and a much smaller, bare-bones retail shop.

The new membership workspace will be open to anyone in the community who wants to work on their own bike and maintenance and repair classes will be offered by CCC staff. “This new membership-based DIY workshop and class space we will have an additional revenue stream to help grow our current programming to reach even more people throughout Portland,” Galen said.

The members-only workspace will take over the large corner location and a new, smaller retail space will open next door.

According to the CCC, many factors figured into their decision. The rise of remote work and corresponding decrease in commuters needing supplies and repairs was cited as the main one. They said Portland’s precipitous drop in cycling rates hurt their bottom line.

Back in April, the CCC Bike Shop also became the first bike shop in Portland to unionize.

Asked if higher labor costs related to unionization played a role in the shop decision, CCC Development Director Jacks Volkoff said the organization has paid staff a living wage for many years. “Becoming a union shop has not significantly affected our expenses,” they shared. “The cost of labor has increased in Portland, as it has across the country, however, all of our other costs have also grown over the last couple of years.”

According to CCC Finance Director Jonnie Ling, shop revenue was historically about 48-50% of the nonprofit’s total revenue and about 42-44% of its total expenses. But in the past few years, revenue has dropped to 43-44% and expenses have risen to 58-60% of total revenue. “The shop was quickly becoming our most expensive program despite its revenue generating purpose,” Ling shared with BikePortland. 

He also alluded to the increased cost of labor and its impact on the CCC’s decision. “The bike industry has long relied on cheap labor in order to generate revenue and that reality is changing. While we applaud and champion better wages for bike shop workers, we need to shift our model in order to continue to support the communities most impacted by transportation inequities.”

The shop will close on September 18th and the CCC will take about six weeks to remodel the space before re-opening in November. The CCC hasn’t shared the cost of the new membership. See their announcement and FAQ for more information.


Correction, 8/1: This story originally stated that CCC Finance Director Jonnie Ling was alluding to a recent vote by shop workers to unionize in his statement about higher wages. That was incorrect. The story has been edited and I regret the error.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

34 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Hotrodder
Hotrodder
9 months ago

Well, sorry to see this happen, but to tell the truth the place never felt that welcoming to me. I live less than a couple of miles from the shop, right down Going, so super easy to get to, but I rarely used the place because the staff always made me think that they were just too cool for school, and an old white guy looking for a used brifter for his classic steel road bike or just the exact right stem for a single speed project was a complete intrusion into their day – in spite of the fact that the only thing I ever asked of them was to just ring up my merch.

I get it. I was 20 once too. But someone needs to be the adult in a retail environment and tell the staff to smile, not scowl at the customers.

mc
mc
9 months ago
Reply to  Hotrodder

As an older white CIS-gendered, hetero-normative male who mostly only buys used or on sale items, I’ve only ever had very friendly & helpful customer service, to the point that I ride 6 miles and past other bike shops to go to CCC.

dw
dw
9 months ago
Reply to  Hotrodder

Did you ever try smiling at the workers?

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
9 months ago
Reply to  dw

Your remark falls flat. I volunteered repairing bikes and helping out the Bike Drive at the CCC when it was over by the Rexall drug store. I liked it and I like being around bike people; then they moved down the street, and while it was all pretty cool for a while – hanging out, getting parts, checking out the stuff – eventually, each time I went in it was like I just didn’t belong. I never worked at the new shop, but to answer your question I’m most always pleasant when I go into a bike shop, because I like and understand bikes and I’m happy to be around them and talk with like-minded people…

Tony Thayer-Osborne
Tony Thayer-Osborne
9 months ago
Reply to  Hotrodder

I’ve never had that experience at CCC but I have had it nearly every time in the last 10 years that I’ve tried to buy something at Citybikes. I’m bummed. Where else am I going to find beat-to-hell SPDs?

Gabriel
Gabriel
9 months ago

Bike Farm

Erik T
Erik T
9 months ago

Contact your boy who you used to work with and worked for The Bike Gallery and Trek for years and still works in the industry?

Zach
Zach
9 months ago
Reply to  Hotrodder

I’ve always had friendly and helpful service at CCC.

One about 10 years ago I had such a bad interaction at Rivercity that I avoid it to this day.

My point, most bike shop service is pretty friendly but you get one-off bad interactions anywhere… and those stick with us.

PacificSource
PacificSource
9 months ago
Reply to  Hotrodder

I feel like this might be just the normal Portland lack of customer service problem, not a CCC problem. the last two times I’ve needed repairs, I’ve paid a pretty penny and BOTH repairs were done incorrectly, one resulting in a popped tire right in my ear (felt that for days) so I had to huff my bike back 2 miles to get my tire re-repaired. Both these shops, on opposite ends of towns, I was serviced by the owner, who were older men & very unfriendly. I’m a young woman but I’m hoping that didn’t factor into the equation…

Pendletor
Pendletor
9 months ago
Reply to  Hotrodder

Completely agree. The staff were snooty, mansplainy jerks to my partner on multiple occasions. We love the mission/idea of the CCC, but the retail staff were not welcoming at all.

buildwithjoe
9 months ago
Reply to  Hotrodder

I agree with Hotrodder. Repeat occasions of white guy smugness for myself. Read all the CCC reviews on google maps. It’s a lot of people with the same experience. I could see the CCC downfall happening over the years.

My girlfriend and I walked in. This was months before the pandemic. I was friendly and in a good mood. The first person who could help us was a young white guy. I asked if they sold new crankarms for a 3 piece crankset with triple chainrings. I said I had my own crank arm extractor and that the bike had fallen over and when I rode it it felt like the pedals were bent and I had tried several pedals. The white dude launched into a very long lecture that I should bring it and etc, and it’s not something people should do on their own etc,. He concluded with a big flat out no. I pretty much stayed silent and looked at my girlfriend and she said something and we said something like ok and moved away. I wound up asking a young woman if they had any new crankarms with triple chainrings. I think I even said something like Shimano or any other generic. She brought out a new crank in a Shimano box FC-MT101 or something just like it. I said that was exactly what I needed and I already had the extractor. She rang me up and we walked out and had a long dialog about the smugness because before we went in I warned her the place has really smug white guys and if we get one don’t debate and just wait and find someone else. We went home, I put on the new crankarms and the bike felt like new, none of the pedals being off kilter feeling. The chain and rear cog had been replaced and looked new enough and there was no chain skip.

When I go into bike shops I don’t tell them I was a bike mechanic in a bike shop for 4 years, I don’t tell them I can build my own wheels and have a lot of my own tools and used to race road/track/offroad. Even trying to buy a tube I get this chronic white male toxicity problem. I do not recall this in Houston over my 5 years there or my 10 years in the bay area. This is a major problem in Portland over 20 years and several shops. I would expect the CCC to have read their reviews and responded and adjusted.

This situation is sad because I donated my mom’s mint condition Chicago Bikes chrome molly cruiser with aluminum wheels to the CCC. I could have easily have sold it for $500 but I wanted to help them. I often made use of the used parts bins with the CCC and city bikes to rebuild a lot of bikes for friends. At the CCC this did not require interaction with staff. I sent a lot of people to the CCC to donate very high quality bikes that I did not have time to tune up. They kept a lot of great bikes and equipment out of the landfill and also reduced the need for “new” bikes to be made.

They did a lot of bike drives and I donated time to a few bike drives before my kid was born.

I really hope they continue to offer bike drives and accepting old bikes to be rebuilt. It would be great if they offered used parts bins to the public for purchase. I’ve donated a lot of like new parts to the CCC because I don’t like to keep my own storage and I know when I needed something new or like new I could go to them for parts, and then if I failed there just get new parts from my favorite shop. I have a few favorite shops with long term relationships and I really wanted to CCC to be one of those.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/354521768176

Amit Zinman
9 months ago

While there are definitely a lot of people riding their non-assisted road bikes everywhere, the money as such will is in selling and maintaining e-bikes and other assisted micro-mobility vehicles. This requires a very different operational paradigm and not all bike stores are ready for it, whether they are non-profit or for-profit.

mc
mc
9 months ago
Reply to  Amit Zinman

There are still many bike shops in town that aren’t specialist e-bike shops. Some, like Clever Cycles, do sell some e-assisted models, while many others don’t. There’
s currently an e-bike store for sale on Craigslist. I think they were a Rad Cycles shop. Also, Vanmoof just went bankrupt.

I’d like to see some actually data, before I agree with such claims.

EP
EP
9 months ago

The CCC has been a great resource over the years. Volunteering for the holiday bike drive was always fun, as was seeing them at so many bikey events. I liked the simpler shop setup back around 2010 before they remodeled, it was grungier and had more used parts, but I get they had to go for more retail space and a cleaner look. Maybe this new direction will help them focus on their mission, and still sell cool used parts, with less filler in between.

According to the FAQ:

“We will still have a retail space right next door to the current space on 17th & Alberta st. Plus starting in September on the weekends you can visit our satellite location on NE Schuyler between NE 1st ave & 2nd ave. We will still have a great used parts selection both online in our eBay store and in person at our retail space on NE 17th & Alberta St.“

Michael Andersen
9 months ago

What a loss. Thanks to everyone for their work to keep this shop alive over the years. Losing it is going to affect a lot of people.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago

This is a natural outcome of Sightline’s highly influential lobbying* that favors housing production for the upper classes (who tend to drive large expensive cars more than lower-income people).

Bravo to your org for making Portland a city ever more hostile to working class transportation options!

*Partially funded by MAGA real estate barons

G. Ellsworth Thomas
G. Ellsworth Thomas
9 months ago

Teaching people how to fish, instead just giving out the fish, is the future of bicycle retail. CCC is the canary in coal mine. IBDs should be taking notes.

Matt
Matt
9 months ago

Tell that to the United Bicycle Institute, who had to close their Portland school a few years ago.

meh
meh
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt

More the cost of running two campuses. They are still booked solid down in Ashland. And I have to say spending a couple of weeks learning to wrench in Ashland, and riding great trails accessible right from the downtown, was much more fun than Portland.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
9 months ago

US bike parts distributors like JBI, Quality, & KHS have all raised their prices 40% or more in the past year or so, vastly reducing profit margins and the ability to mark up prices for poorer customers, making mail orders from Bike24 or Wiggle look more like bargains even with the foreign exchange rates. I know of a lot of bottom-feeder shops looking to give up retail altogether or just be a buyer’s coop instead with their richer and more reliable clientele.

mc
mc
9 months ago

Some things here just don’t add up to me.

Won’t the new retail space next door be a new cost?

“Bare bones” says to me mostly replaceable parts, locks, light, helmets. Not sure that needs its own storefront.

They’re saying people not bike commuting is hurting retail sales. Wouldn’t that also hurt DIY shop membership too? Bikes not ridden, don’t need fixin.

This model reminds me of The Bicycle Repair Collective on SE Belmont. I don’t much about their history, but they went out of business.

My experience over the past year has always been plenty of customer service / retail folks but when I needed to ask a technical question, the mechanics were usually pretty well busy and I’d spent more time waiting to speak to them.

The one thing I’ve always found at CCC, is barely used, high-end stuff for pennies on the dollar. It seems they could easily raise prices on their used parts or ask folks who have the financial wherewithal to pay a bit more, sliding scale like.

Lastly, if I get technical assistance from a bike mechanic, I wouldn’t at all mind paying a small fee for their time, sharing of knowledge and help as they usually always save me money in solving problems.

I’m not a business person nor bike industry veteran, but I really have to question the business leadership here because it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Takeaguess
Takeaguess
9 months ago

The employees at the CCC fought for years to get close to the living wage. Just about 2 years ago they finally gave in for just under a living wage.

The CCC is feeding you skewed information to try hide the sheisty practices that have been going on for years. They hid the extent of the budget crisis from employees until it was too late.

I also find it quite convenient that the organization failed to mention they will be laying off close to 75% of the customer facing staff.

Not to mention the fact that they are alluding to the union hurting the organization financially is outright, incorrect, and quite honestly gross. The decision to recognize the union was unanimous. If the organization really thought that a union was going to hurt the organization why would they unanimously decide to recognize it?

It seems really fishy to me that the organization would use the clout of the union to gain the publics interest, but then allude or insinuate that the union may have actually hurt the organization later on?

I’d be willing to bet that this new interim Director doesn’t even know half of the staffs name.

mc
mc
9 months ago
Reply to  Takeaguess

“I also find it quite convenient that the organization failed to mention they will be laying off close to 75% of the customer facing staff.”

That’s a pretty big omission, but not that surprising. Although, my customer service experiences at CCC have always been well beyond satisfactory, on most visits it seemed they had more than necessary retail side staff and not enough mechanics.

That wouldn’t be a problem if the retail staff could answer my tech/mech questions, but so often they couldn’t, so I had to wait to talk to a mechanic and would often feel guilty taking up their time when it seemed they were usually pretty busy.

7 Corners Cycles was my LBS for over a decade and I witnessed many personnel and business changes.

When it was just Cory mostly turning wrenches and Gretchen mostly handling sales during and after the pandemic, they were staying afloat primarily on shop labor. The had consistently had high-end bikes, difficult problems and complicated projects.

Cory is exceptional and can easily do the work of 2, maybe even 3 people, but if don’t want to or can’t compete with the big lifestyle, retail heavy bike shops in town, you’ve be able to turn those work orders over quickly & efficiently. I’ve only patronized a half-dozen shops in town and all of them, save 7CC aren’t able to do that while doing retail sales, and walk-in repair work w/o slowing down other repair & project work. .

The more I read the comments and think about this, it seems that this is more of a business operation/management problem and the “loss of bike commuters” is just a convenient excuse for people who don’t actually understand how to run a bike shop.

Takeaguess
Takeaguess
9 months ago
Reply to  mc

“The more I read the comments and think about this, it seems that this is more of a business operation/management problem and the “loss of bike commuters” is just a convenient excuse for people who don’t actually understand how to run a bike shop.“

This right here. Except for the don’t know how to run a bike shop part. The issue was there was a few actually exceptionally competent people in management being held back by who ever the hell pulls the string there.

The staff begged over and over and over again to have everyone cross trained so retail could confidently answer tech questions beyond what they were capable of at the time. To everyone’s surprise they were turned away at every avenue when the idea was presented to management.

Sad to see such a good thing go to waste.

meh
meh
9 months ago
Reply to  Takeaguess

There is a real attitude there. Way back when, I walked away from corporate work. Found myself down at UBI taking a mechanics course to shore up my 20 years of self taught wrenching. Learned a lot. I applied to CCC and got told my training means nothing. Sure I wasn’t a master mechanic, but I thought I had shown that I wanted to learn and get into the business. Glad I didn’t let their attitude dissuade me. I eventually ended up managing a bike shop and then working for a bike manufacturer for a decade.

John L
John L
9 months ago

WFH has tripled or quadrupled (32% last data) and bike mode has halved (to 2%). WFH rate increases with worker income, as does ability to spend at bike shops. The combination of lower volume of less affluent customers implies lower bike shop revenue. Add rising costs, from product cost to employee wages, and the result is pressure on those bike shops dependent on utilitarian cycling. Portland is over-stored with bike shops. I hope my favorite ones survive the shakeout.

PTB
PTB
9 months ago
Reply to  John L

I’m inclined to at least partially believe the WFH angle. One, I’m not a fan, so I want to beat up on it when I can. Two, anecdotally here, I work on a formerly bustling cycling route…and it no longer bustles. There’s still cyclists, sure, but not like 2019. CCC can’t be too different from the lunch spots that used to be available to us that now are not. Go downtown, totally different vibe as well. WFH matters and I think the effects will continue to be ugly. But hey, congrats on ditching that commute! To hell with local small businesses (shop online b/c you’re home and on the computer all day), interacting with strangers in person, spontaneous stops to meet friends after work before you get home, etc. Who needs that stuff?? Gonna be super exciting when the downtown property tax base is absolutely shelled and funding repercussions start hitting.

mc
mc
9 months ago
Reply to  PTB

shop online b/c you’re home and on the computer all day.” I didn’t think about this aspect of WFH and it reduces my skepticism about what seemed like a convenient excuse.

Online booksellers killed many brick & mortar stores, so I’m sure local bike shops were hit hard during and after the pandemic as one could probably find exactly what they wanted, brand, color, style and price.

Maybe CCC doesn’t want to deal w. the headaches of running a retail operation and honestly does just want to go back to their roots of DIY community repair shop and education.

It’d be great if they could create a credible bike shop mechanic training program so some folks could walk into an LBS and get a job.

Jeff
Jeff
9 months ago
Reply to  PTB

My WFH experience is the opposite. More connected with my immediate neighbors during the day and evenings, more likely to walk or ride the neighborhood for errands or lunch ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

more likely to walk or ride the neighborhood for errands or lunch

I see this as encapsulating the priorities of the ownership class in bougie Portland. Utilitarian cycling is now riding a few blocks to quaff a microbrew (that could be easily walked in about as much time). And this is why narrow, meandering, and hilariously sub-par bike lanes on Hawthorne were such a priority for SE PDX bike flaneurs (e.g. a perfect route for a quick jaunt to the brewpub when you live in Richmond/Sunnyside).

I hate Jane Jacobs and all those who worship her vision of bougie gentrification.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  PTB

There’s still cyclists, sure, but not like 2019.

And by 2019 bike mode share had already cratered. The 2022 bike mode share print should be published in a few weeks and I suspect we will see a slight uptick — maybe we will even hit a 3-handle!

Well on our way to the 25% by 2030 goal of BikeLoudPDX!!!!11!!!1!!!

Jeff Queso
Jeff Queso
9 months ago

Here’s my CCC story: I moved to Portland in the late ’00s. I knew CCC as the closest local bike shop; it seemed okay for service and I loved the used parts bins.

While job hunting I saw a listing (on BikePortland probably) that CCC was hiring mechanics and decided to apply. I’d had previous experience refurbishing bikes as a volunteer for a couple bike co-ops in other cities and thought a job doing that would be an amazing way to join the industry and get “real” shop experience.

The interview was a disaster. Upon arrival the manager informed me that this would be a “friendly competition” with another applicant… a guy that everyone in the shop seemed to know and love. I stood there and nervously laughed as the staff joked that the other guy was a “shoe in”.

We (the two candidates) were each handed a donated bike and told we had one hour to “get it ready for the sales floor.” These were, of course, heavily neglected old bikes that had sat outside, exposed to the elements and needed complete teardowns– way more than what could be accomplished in an hour. Furthermore the task seemed pointless: I’d been given a low-end MTB that was essentially department store quality, aka not really worth fixing. The other guy, meanwhile, was wrenching on a 70s Peugeot that had a lot of hipster appeal. I could acutally see potential in what he’d been given; The best hope for my bike was the scrap heap.

But I wrenched away regardless, getting the plastic shifters and brakes un-gummed, breaking loose the seized seatpost and overhauling the headset.

At some point the manager remarked that I’d “crossed the threshold”– stepped between the stand and the bench– and that this was “a big no-no in this shop” and “mechanics don’t do that.” WTF? Never heard about that before or since. But he’d made it clear that I didn’t belong in his little fraternity.

Soon enough sixty frenzied minutes had passed and neither candidate had finished their bikes. Smiles all around for the other guy, a friend of the staff. Frowns for me, since I’d yet to finish repacking the hubs on a junk bike.

All this for a job that paid a whopping $11 / hr.

I left with a pit in my stomach. It was humiliating and embarrassing and it took me a few weeks to get over it… for the most part, that is. For years afterwards I avoided CCC at all costs and spent my money elsewhere.

But it was truly the unprofessional management that really stuck with me; how lowly and worthless they made me feel on the shop floor that day.

buildwithjoe
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Queso

Jeff. I am so sorry. What happened to you is beyond horrible and I hope it did not happen to anyone else. It is no shock it took weeks to get over. I would take years to get over that. It’s like a living nightmare. I’m guessing this was standard protocol.

Beth H
Beth H
9 months ago

Every new horror about the local bike shop scene simply reaffirms that I retired just in time. I have no regrets, and only best wishes for everyone entangled in it now.