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Employees acquire Art's Cyclery, exit online business to focus on local customers

Published February 28, 2019

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (BRAIN) — A trio of employees has purchased brick-and-mortar and online retailer Art's Cyclery and has wound down the e-commerce business in favor of focusing on local customers at its new location on California's Central Coast.

About 10 years ago, previous owners of Art's Cyclery had partnered with Sports Warehouse, which operates e-commerce businesses in activities including tennis, running and skate, to take the shop online and scale up its e-commerce business. Those sales quickly grew to become nearly 80 percent of overall sales at its peak, with as many 30 employees. But Sports Warehouse acquired Art's two years ago as the online business struggled, said Trevor Roland, who acquired Art's last summer along with partners Jon Whisenand and Josh Job. The three have all worked at Art's for several years.

"We were moving a bunch of stuff, but we had price matching policies, we did free shipping — all the things the other online retailers were doing. But we just weren't doing the quantities to be profitable. Initially, I think we saw a lot of new sales and growth, and we had hoped the margin would go up as we got more efficient and dialed in. But the online bike game just wasn't working in our favor. Having to price match Chain Reaction and all those other big companies was really hard for us," Roland said.

Art's Cyclery owners (from left) Jon Whisenand, Josh Job, Trevor Roland"That was a low point in the business on the local level just because the faces of company were gone. The local vibe just went south. They did that for a couple years, and the company still wasn't very healthy, so they decided to sell the company. All of us who worked there knew that online wasn't working, but that local stuff like we had done in the past could do well. So we went ahead and made an offer, and we moved in October," Roland said.

The partners moved the business out of Sports Warehouse's vast warehouse facility in San Luis Obispo to a 4,000-square-foot storefront with room for offices, storage and a retail sales floor covering about 2,500 square feet.

In the last year under Sports Warehouse's ownership, Art's had focused on the mountain bike market, but the new owners are now bringing in more road inventory to serve those customers. They've also dialed back the numbers of brands they carry and are focusing their buying on products suited to local riding conditions.

"We want to carry the things that all of us would buy if we were customers," Roland said. "We have a really unique area. Tires you run here are different from what you'd run on the East Coast."

The shop has also been ramping up group rides, including a regular women's MTB ride starting from the shop with coffee and snacks, and local events like movie premieres and trail work days with local advocates.

"That's been the coolest part about this. We have the freedom to do those things now," Roland said. "Local stuff is where we want to be."

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