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New York shops do it old school

Published November 1, 2012
Closer to shore, some shops damaged

MANHATTAN, NY (BRAIN) — Who needs electricity to run a bike shop?

A handful of Manhattan bike shops re-opened Wednesday following post-tropical storm Sandy, as the city was flooded with bike commuters.

Bicycle Habitat opened its Manhattan location without electricity on Wednesday. Employees had to manually override the store's metal gates to open and then did some repairs on the sidewalk for better light, owner Charlie McCorkell said.

The store was doing free bike safety checks for riders nervous about re-mounting rarely used machines.

NYC Velo opened at its power-less East Village location where shop staff kept busy pumping up tires, answering questions from new bike commuters and processing a few sales for lights and helmets.

"A lot of bikes haven't been maintained in a long time," said shop owner Andrew Crooks, pausing to tell an employee to get the credit card number of a customer in order to enter her purchase into the computer system when power is restored. "There is a lot of debris on the streets right now."

Crooks' staff was also serving coffee out on the sidewalk, with hand-grinded beans heated on a camping stove.  

The Toga! chain also kept all three of its locations open, even though its Gotham store and Nyack store were without power.

Spokesman Cycles opened three of its five stores Wednesday, co-owner Carlos Dall'Orso told BRAIN. Dall'Orso said opening the Manhattan Velo store on East 17th Street was the biggest challenge.

"It took a little while to track down a generator and then an open gas station to power it, but people were really happy to see us there," he said.

Charlie McCorkell at Bicycle Habitat Wednesday. Photo: Alex Leader:

"Lots of regular customers plus a good number of people who are digging rarely used bikes out of storage to get around while subway service is suspended. We do rental bikes too, and think that might pick up more once word gets out that we're open," he said.

He said the chain's 60th Street store, right off the bike path on the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, had one of its busiest days ever. 

Roy's Sheepshead Cycle, near Coney Island, re-opened Thursday. Owner Allen Trepel said the store suffered no damage but did not have electricity until Thursday. "We've had a few customers who were flooded, we've had people birng in bikes that were in storage sheds under 7, 8 feet of salt water."

Several stores in Brooklyn also remained open.

Not all good news

It's not all good news for New York-area retailers, however.

Several shops on the New Jersey shore, Long Island and New Jersey's Long Beach Island suffered significant damage, although in most cases the owners have not been able to visit the shops yet to assess the damage.

Thomas Walters, owner of Walters' Bicycles in Surf City, New Jersey, said his store is undamaged but he can't get to it. "The building stands, it's in good shape, but I don't know when I'll be able to see it. My sons are there with a gas generator," Walters said Thursday. Walters was at his house farther inland, that had no electricity so he kept the conversation short to save his battery. "It's flashing red, I need to go, sorry," he said.

In Forked River, New Jersey, Bicycles Unlimited's building was largely undamaged, owner Kenny Disharoon said.

"We are open for business and cleaning up. But it's 2pm and we haven't had a customer yet. Everyone is in clean-up and recovery mode," he said. Bicycles Unlimted is two or three miles from the ocean and is located in a new brick and mortar strip mall. Disharoon said businesses and homes closer to the shore were heavily damaged and much of the town is still without electricity. "This town is pretty torn up, to say the least," he said.

Much of Long Island is still without electricity, and retailers there are choosing to remain closed as the region lacks Manhattan's  commuter/transportation clientele.

Photo of mechanic Hal by Alex Leader, Bicycle Habitat

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