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Elliott Bay Bicycles to close by month’s end

Published September 18, 2014

SEATTLE (BRAIN) — Located a stone’s throw from the original Starbucks and the Pike Place Market on Seattle’s waterfront, Elliott Bay Bicycles will close its doors at the end of September. Framebuilder Bill Davidson and retailer Bob Freeman opened Elliott Bay in 1983. Seattle’s changing urban landscape, lack of parking and higher rents were among the factors in the decision to close the store.

“It’s been a long time coming, and we wanted to go out on top,” said Freeman. “When we moved in, this part of Seattle was a light industrial area and a little sleazy. Parking was free or really cheap, and we had customers who came from all over because we had become a destination shop.

“Now it’s high-rise condos, tech industry and hoity-toity shops,” Freeman added. “Our rent is five times what we paid, parking is expensive, and traffic is horrendous. All of that conspires to keep out-of-towners from visiting Seattle.”

Davidson began his industry career in the early 1970s after traveling to England for a bike racing trip. He caught the framebuilding bug while working for a short stint as an assistant at the Harry Quinn Bicycle Frame Shop in Liverpool. When Davidson returned to the U.S., he made bikes for himself and a few friends in his garage.

Davidson later teamed up with friend and fellow cyclist Freeman to open Elliott Bay Bicycles, with Freeman handling the retail side of the business and Davidson building his namesake bicycles in the frame shop behind the sales floor.

In the early days, Davidson made frames for a number of racers, but now he builds everything from tandems to superlight track bikes. Everything including mitering and painting was done on-site. Davidson said he plans to continue to build bicycles in a new location after the store closes.

“It’s been both a hobby and a career. I don’t think I’m going to go home and garden or collect chess pieces,” said Davidson. “I need projects and really enjoy them. I’ve been lucky that people have given me projects and paid me to do them over the years.

“The community has created such a nice culture for cycling here in Seattle, and I’ve gotten to take full advantage of it,” Davidson added. “Hopefully I’ve contributed something to it too.”

Freeman said he plans to continue to work with his extensive vintage bike collection, which until just recently was on display on Elliott Bay’s retail sales floor. The remainder of the bikes consumed a large warehouse space behind the framebuilding shop.

“I will do restorations for people at home, people who know me. That will produce some income, and I plan to pare down my collection, which at the moment is almost an unmanageable size,” Freeman said.

Besides Davidson Bicycles, Elliott Bay sold bikes from Orbea, Bianchi, Breezer and Surly. A liquidation sale is underway, and the last scheduled day of business is Sept. 28. 

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