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Rivendell offers 'reparations' discount to Black customers

Published October 5, 2020

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (BRAIN) — In its new Black Reparations Program, Rivendell Bicycle Works is offering Black customers a 45% discount on bikes and frames bought through its website or its warehouse store.

The 26-year-old company, which offers custom steel road, touring and casual-use bikes and related parts and accessories, began the discount on an ad hoc basis at its store about two years ago, said John Bennett, Rivendell's social media and press liaison.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, Rivendell no longer serves walk-in customers, so the company decided to formalize the program for online shoppers.

"Reparations acknowledge that in America, white wealth — recent or generational, earned or inherited — has come by the labor of Black people, who, even after slavery, were never given a leg up," the company said in a release.

Rivendell is setting aside 10% of each bike model shipment this year to be available for the discount. The company is also giving all customers an opportunity to donate to the program, which would expand the number of bikes available in the discount program. Customers have already donated several thousand dollars since the program was announced last week.

Rivendell is still working out exactly how to determine eligibility for the discount.

"For us, this is the most challenging and awkward part of BRP," the company said. "This is a hurdle that'll have to be overcome. Let's cooperate and make that happen, OK? Our role is emphasizing the importance of it, as we're doing now. Your role is to figure out a way for you to avoid the indignity of being asked if you're Black, and for us to avoid the horror of asking."

The program does not have an income restriction and is not open to other minority groups.

Bennett said that in the past, Rivendell founder and CEO Grant Petersen would meet privately with some Black customers at the warehouse store.

"It was always just an unofficial thing that we did," Bennett said. "Grant would talk to them and if he felt comfortable offering the discount and he thought they would be comfortable with him offering it, he would bring it up. We had some takers on it; we sold a few bikes and some gear."

Rivendell announced the program on Oct. 1 with a press release and a post on Instagram; it begins Oct. 12. The Instagram post (below) received more than 3,000 "likes" and hundreds of comments. Bennett estimated that 95% of the comments are positive, with a few critical of the program.

"We drew the attention of the proud boys and others who felt we were being racists in offering this. As if everything that's happened in the last 400 years has been nothing but glowing," he said.

Rivendell has wholesale accounts with 11 stores; those shops are not formally part of the program, but Bennett said dealers support the program and at least a few are interested in participating in some way.

Bennett also said he has exchanged emails with the owner of a garden center in Upstate New York who is interested in offering a similar program.

"We are hoping to put together a loose — very loose — coalition of other retailers who might be interested in participation," he said.

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A post shared by Rivendell Bicycle Works (@rivbike) on Oct 1, 2020 at 8:34am PDT

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