PORTLAND, OR (BRAIN)—The Bike Commuter, Portland’s only bike shop focusing squarely on the bicycle commuter market, is expanding into a larger space in the city’s Sellwood neighborhood. The new location, which opened September 1, is at the corner of SE 13th Avenue and Umatilla Street, adjacent to the Springwater Trail bike corridor.
“We’re really excited about the new spot,” said Eric Deady, who founded The Bike Commuter with his wife, Naihma, earlier this year. “It’s right on a main biking thoroughfare that gets a ton of traffic—we counted more than 1,000 bicyclists riding by this corner one day earlier in the summer.”
Deady said the business has enjoyed steady growth during the past nine months, in large part, he says, because it has remained focused on a niche within the bike market, according to a press release.
“Portland has a really big bicyclist market, but there are literally dozens of bike shops in this city catering to that market,” Deady said. “In order to stand out, we felt we needed to choose a market segment and service it well.
“As such, we cater to the commuter bicyclist—those people who strive to make bicycling a part of their everyday lives," he added. "We don’t carry racing bikes and we don’t carry mountain bikes. But if you use your bike to get around town, we are a great shop for you.”
The Bike Commuter’s inventory reflects that niche, with a wide range of road bikes and accessories to help commuting bicyclists have an easier go of it. “Whether you use you bike to and from work, or just to run errands, we carry the right bikes and the right accessories for you,” Deady said.
The shop is an authorized dealer for Raleigh and Traitor, both of which make excellent products for use in getting around town. Traitor, based in Kent, Washington, specializes specifically in urban commuter-oriented steel framed bikes. In addition to new bikes, The Bike Commuter offers repairs and services, as well as commuting accessories, parts, and even rentals.
“We’ve seen the rental business really grow—it seems to be something not all bike shops care to offer,” Deady said.
The Deadys had help in opening the shop from Mercy Corps Northwest and the City of Portland’s Business Technical Assistance Program. When traditional bank financing proved impossible to secure, Mercy Corps Northwest stepped in with a start-up loan and some invaluable business training. Among the strings attached to the loan is a commitment from the Deadys to keep the lender apprised on a monthly basis of how the business is progressing.
The Bike Commuter is one of more than 200 small businesses that have been financed by Mercy Corps Northwest since the organization started the micro-financing program in 2009. Other businesses that have gotten their start through Mercy Corps Northwest include food carts, yoga studios, catering businesses and day care providers.
“The businesses that we work with are unable to access traditional financing, but if their business plan is sound and the owners are conscientious and invest their available resources, we can often help,” said Scott Onder of Mercy Corps Northwest. “Our goal is to provide the resources to help businesses thrive and put them in a position to work with traditional banks as quickly as possible.”
With small businesses accounting for some 75 percent of the jobs in the Portland area, having this sort of support is seen as critical to helping the area’s economy to recover from the current recession. In the case of The Bike Commuter, at least, it seems to be working. As part of the move and expansion, Deady says he plans to hire a new employee and expand business hours to seven days a week. “I’d love to be open seven days right now, but I just can’t manage it without adding some help,” he said.