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Retailer pens letter to suppliers, warning of scary times ahead

Published April 2, 2020

BLACK MOUNTAIN, N.C. (BRAIN) — One North Carolina retailer expressed his thoughts in a letter to his suppliers about how COVID-19 has affected his business, and shared a glimpse with BRAIN about how his 1,600 square-foot downtown location is weathering an economic and humanitarian crisis.

Allan Hightower, owner of Epic Cycles in Black Mountain — and with whom BRAIN spent "a day in the life of a bike shop" in June last year, during happier times — is amid his biggest challenge ever of keeping his shop open during stay-at-home orders in a tourist town of about 8,000 residents.

Because of his self-described "prepper" mentality, Hightower said he has reserve capital and not currently in need of loan assistance. 

But money is only part of the challenge, he said. 

"It's the whole thing of concern for everyone," said Hightower who recommends retailers consider renegotiating their rent during these uncertain times. "I have one employee who will not come in unless the store is closed. I am trying to work within his concerns, and at the same time keep the other employees safe. The front door check-in table is working great and most people get it. (The crash of 2008) was hard, but this is way harder."

As summer soon beckons, Hightower said Black Mountain's population "doubles, if not triples." Currently, he said most non-bike shops in town are closed, being deemed non-essential. "We got lucky to be considered an essential business. I would guess we will lose 20% of the restaurants if this goes over 30 days."

Hightower has kept his staff of four intact but fears layoff are inevitable. If he has to, he'll cut staff pay in half for four weeks. Afterward, employees would be let go. 

Hightower consented to his letter being published by BRAIN.

Hey guys,

Thought I should let you know now that we have had to make some quick and challenging decisions here at Epic Cycles Black Mountain NC. We are sending this out to all our bike companies and advising them that we will not be able to remain committed to any pre-season forecast. I would expect that you understand why.

Shop update:

Two weeks ago we decided to be closed 3 out of 7 days. Now we are open Wed. (through) Sat.

Last week we decided to have a check-in table out front and not allow customers into the shop. We were busyish.

This week, it's dead. No one dropping off bikes and no one out and about, which in all reality is good, just not good for business. The retail end of our business is completely dead.

Reminds me of a movie I saw a while back called "Red 2." Bruce Willis sneaked a bomb onto the plane of the villain, Anthony Hopkins, so when he discovers it his quote was:

"Well, I didn't see that coming!"

Then the plane blows up.

Keep the faith, my friend. And thanks for all your support.

Allan Hightower

Epic Cycles owner Allan Hightower, right, with mechanic Alonso Gutierrez.
Topics associated with this article: Coronavirus

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