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Portland shop completes move by bike

Published May 7, 2014
The move took just 45 minutes. Photos: Christie Spillane

PORTLAND, Ore. (BRAIN) — Gladys Bikes, a women's-focused shop in Portland, Oregon, moved into a larger space two miles away from its original home with the help of about 70 locals who rode or carried the store's inventory and store displays and belongings on bike trailers and cargo bikes last Saturday. Volunteers rode on neighborhood bikeways primarily used by cyclists the entire way.

"I bike moved," said Leah Benson, owner of Gladys Bikes. "It was amazing. Kids as young as 2 years old and riding on tag-along trailer bikes had bar tape in their backpacks. It was such a collaborative, community-building event. It's one of those things that makes me love Portland."

With so many volunteers, the entire move took about 45 minutes. Gladys Bikes will reopen May 21 in a larger 1,300-square-foot space next to a wine shop. Benson along with a crew of family and friends are building out the new location over the next two weeks. The new space has a separate room that will be used for bike fitting. Benson said her goal is to enhance the warm and classy feel of the interior.

Benson, who previously worked at various nonprofits outside of the bicycle industry, opened her original 800-square-foot women's-focused shop nearly six months ago. She employs one full-time and two part-time staffers and said her business is faring pretty well so far.

"I was ready to leave the nonprofit realm and was trying to figure out what was next. Bikes were a pleasure in my life. I always had the entrepreneurial itch and I was also having conversations with women who were expressing frustrations about the way bike shops operated. So I thought, 'This sounds like an issue I can tackle,' " Benson said.

While the new space is still on the small side for bike retail, Benson said it's a significant upgrade for her. In addition to more space, it's also a more visible location on Alberta Street. She plans to bring on Bianchi and expand her clothing selection, which includes lifestyle and fashion-inspired brands Club Ride, Iladora and Sweet Spot Skirts, along with more performance-oriented offerings from Shebeest and new women's apparel brand Velocio.

Benson carries vintage steel city bikes from Papillionaire and custom frames from local builder Sweetpea Bicycles (Natalie Ramsland, the woman behind Sweetpea, is the shop's bike fitter). Most of Benson's offerings are steel commuter, traditional road and touring bikes. She said residents in Portland have a liking for throwback and old-school craftsmanship more than in other cities.

"We do quite a few semi-custom builds using frames you can get through distributors, such as Surly, Soma or Fairdale Bikes," Benson said. "One of my main philosophies here is selling bikes that appropriately fit people, especially women. We build bikes around people's bodies. So we have solid stock options we can stand behind, then offer the semi-custom route."

Benson said she searches for suppliers that aren't as well known and when possible, brands that are owned or started by women. "Within two years perhaps I'll bring in one other bike brand. But at this point I'm going for quality over quantity. I look for brands I can stand behind," she said.

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