POMONA, Calif. (BRAIN) — Coates Cyclery, one of Southern California's oldest bike shops, will close its doors by the end of February. Owner Corey McCroskey, who purchased the shop 15 years ago, said changing shopping behaviors, internet competition and consumer-direct sales were factors in his decision to shutter the store, which opened in 1934.
"The times are changing. It's a big store with a single owner," McCroskey said. "I can't throw the kind of inventory into it that it needs and at the same time pay my staff a living wage, keep it profitable and pay all of the other expenses that come with a business."
McCroskey considered selling the business but ultimately decided to liquidate inventory and pay his debts, leaving a clean slate.
"Selling was an option, but as we went down that path, my attorney and accountant advised against it," he said. "And I wanted to go out with some integrity, and going out above the board was the best way to do that. One vendor told me they've never been so happy with a closure — not because I'm closing, but because of the way the closure has happened. I've been communicative and open with them. Hopefully that resonates. My advice to retailers who may be facing similar challenges is to always communicate with your vendors."
McCroskey has been involved in the industry in some way for more than 30 years. He's raced BMX, mountain bikes and Ironmans, coached and worked for years in retail before buying Coates in 2001. A longtime Kona rider and dealer, McCroskey also collaborated with Kona to develop the Safariland police patrol bike, which was launched in 2012. Besides Kona, Coates also carries Giant, Felt, Bianchi, GT and others.
Over the course of its long history serving Southern California's Inland Empire, the store amassed a sizable and loyal following. Five years ago, McCroskey teamed up with Greg Armstrong, a longtime Coates' customer, to organize the Plain Wrap annual charity bike ride held to benefit cyclists who have been injured while riding.
In 2016, the ride attracted around 400 people and since its inception, has raised about $150,000 for various Inland Empire cycling clubs and other organizations. With the store's closure, the fate of the ride is yet to be determined, but McCroskey said he hoped cyclists would continue to support it.
"We really have really built quite a community here," said McCroskey, who first began working in the store in the late 1980s. "The Plain Wrap ride was our way to give back."
But Coates also worked with the Claremont Rotary Club to donate 50 bikes per year to help local school districts increase student attendance. Students who didn't miss a day of school throughout the year won a bike from Coates.
McCroskey also hosted regular group rides, clinics and other events with the help of his mother, Shirley McCroskey, known to everyone as "Mom," who provides homemade treats with a smile. At age 85, Mom comes to the shop every day, to do the banking and books and keep the store organized. Besides Mom and McCroskey, three full-time employees staff the store.
Coates Cyclery is named for founder Adair Coates, who opened the store as a lawnmower shop in Pomona in 1934, also selling Schwinn bicycles. In 1963, Coates sold the business to Wes Roth, who opened a second location in the building where the store is located today, on the corner of Foothill and Towne in Pomona. Coates' distinct vintage sign dates back to 1963 when the building was constructed, and McCroskey said that recently people have been taking photos of the sign and selling them on Etsy for $50.
McCroskey said that while other retailers have expressed interest in taking over the space, which he has leased since buying Coates, once the shop closes its doors, none have committed with a concrete offer.
"From now until the end of the month, my primary concern is finding placement for some of my guys," he said. "And I'd love to stay in the industry too, if someone will have me."