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Mechanic and bag maker team up to open Golden Pliers bike shop and cafe in Portland

Published July 16, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. (BRAIN) — Longtime mechanic Kevin Purcell and his wife Becky Newman recently opened Golden Pliers Bicycle Repair & Supply in North Portland. The 1,000-square-foot service-oriented shop has a small retail space stocked with products Purcell and Newman like and use, and specializes in custom builds.

“We’re trying to keep overhead really low, and be smarter about what we stock and sell so we also keep quantities really low,” said Purcell, who worked at Portland’s River City Bicycles for a decade and more recently as manager of 21st Avenue Bicycles, which closed earlier this year. “We don’t stock any bikes but we have a demo Gorilla Monsoon for All-City and have already had two sales from that. We want to do more custom builds. I’ve learned over the years that unless you’re doing really high volume, it’s really hard to have bikes on the floor. I would rather work more with the customer and figure out what they want to make something special that is their own.”

Purcell said he had the shop’s name in his back pocket for a few years after reading about an Italian bike racer from the 1950s who nicknamed his mechanic Golden Pliers.

“It was my dream to have a shop for a long time, so I saved the name for later,” he said. “ I think mechanics don’t get a lot of credit, and can often feel like the janitors of the bicycling world. That name made me feel appreciated.”

The shop also houses Newman’s bike bag business, Makeshifter Canvas Works, which she started about four years ago after teaching herself to sew in order to repurpose gear and make touring bags. Newman offers wholesale pricing to a few bike shops, and is in the process of getting a grant to buy more machines. She has one part-time employee for the first time.

“I worked from home while also working restaurant jobs, which was a safe, slow way to start that. I make niche and stylized types of bags, so it was good to test it that way to see if there was interest,” Newman said. “I could have made three times as much stuff, but I was beholden to my other job and my small work space. I realized it was time to scale up and go full time.”

Besides running Makeshifter, Newman also oversees the Golden Pliers café, which serves coffee, snacks, avocado toast, baked goods, and also has a popcorn machine. It has a separate staff.

Golden Pliers stocks some camping gear and coffee drippers for bikepacking and touring, baskets, handlebars, helmets and other parts and accessories. It also sells All-City and Crust bikes, a small builder based in New Jersey.

“They’ve been making some really cool bikes, some made in Taiwan and in the U.S., and are focused more on riding your bike and having fun,” Purcell said. “It’s fun and creative in an industry that can sometimes feel stagnant. It’s similar to what we’re doing here — having all that control over what you’re producing and doing it on a small scale to reach tiny corners of the industry that are hungry for it.”


Service-oriented shop Golden Pliers recently opened in North Portland.

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