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Flashback Friday: BRAIN revisits Big Apple retail

Published November 3, 2017
Dealer Tour editors and sponsors spin along the West Side Greenway.

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — It’s been more than five years since the BRAIN Dealer Tour visited New York City, braving the Big Apple’s busy avenues and steaming July temperatures to visit more than a dozen shops from Fort Lee, New Jersey — across the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan — over to Harlem and south to Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood. 

Like all our Dealer Tours over the years, we sought to sample a broad range of the city’s retail market — road, tri and folding bike specialists, a destination shop that draws fans from around the world, a tiny custom shop focused on classic steel road bikes, and a chain of stores said at the time to be the largest full-service bike dealer in the NYC metro area.

So how much has changed in five years? Lots, it turns out:

  • NYC retail mainstay and longtime advocate Charlie McCorkell has added two more Bicycle Habitat locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, bringing his store count up to four in the two boroughs.
  • Seven-store chain Metro Midtown sold to Danny’s Bicycles, which now operates five locations in Manhattan in addition to seven stores north of the city in New York state and Connecticut.
  • Following the death of owner Bert Cebular in a paragliding accident in 2013, folding bike and e-bike seller NYCeWheels is now under the ownership of his two brothers but is being run by a family friend from Austria in a new space 10 times the size of the 250-square-foot Manhattan shop we visited back in 2012.
  • Brick-and-mortar and online seller R&A Cycles has consolidated its myriad warehouses around the city into a new fulfillment center that also houses its fledgling high-end concierge shopping service, R&A Black, and a new fit system and school still in development.
  • Sid’s Bikes has downsized from two locations to one, and former manager Mike McGinlay acquired the Manhattan store from longtime owner Allen Schulman last year. 
  • Gotham Bikes/Toga Bikes is down from three locations to one Toga store on Manhattan’s West Side.
  • Then there are the retailers that have gone away entirely: Adeline Adeline, a beautifully merchandised lifestyle boutique in Manhattan’s tony Tribeca neighborhood; Harlem family shop MODSquad Cycles; Swim Bike Run NYC, a high-end multisport retailer that was one block from the bike-crazed road loop in Central Park; and that classic steel bike specialist mentioned earlier, Bespoke Bicycles in Brooklyn’s trendy Fort Greene neighborhood.

Additionally, Bicycle Habitat’s McCorkell said that in Brooklyn and Queens last year, 12 stores closed but only two new ones opened. This year, five stores in the area have announced they’re closing, with no new openings on the horizon, he added.

But perhaps the biggest change to affect the local retail market since our visit is the 2013 launch and subsequent expansion of New York’s bike sharing program, Citi Bike. The system now boasts 10,000 bikes and has sold more than 100,000 memberships. 

Harry Schwartzman, a Brooklyn-based rep with Sport Tech Sales Group, noted that while Citi Bike may be creating more cyclists, retailers commonly say the program is eating into their sales, particularly for entry-level bikes. 

“I think it’s been born out. At the time (before Citi Bike’s launch) I didn’t really share that view, but I do now more. Conversely, cycling in New York is a lot easier because of it. So maybe it’s just a long game and we’re still in the bad part,“ said Schwartzman, who served as ride guide for BRAIN’s New York Dealer Tour.

BRAIN managing editor Toby Hill is writing an update story about the 2012 New York Dealer Tour, which will be part of a look back at several key markets the magazine has visited since it launched its first Dealer Tour in fall 2008.

Retailers, area reps and others familiar with the NYC market should feel free to comment below or email Hill at thill@bicycleretailer.com with any tips or information. New bike shop or bike service openings, retail expansion, the effects of Citi Bike, new strides in advocacy — we want to hear it all.

The look back at the BRAIN Dealer Tours will be featured in our December 1 issue, hitting mailboxes in late November.

 

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