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Pandemic check-in: Keeping up with closed bike shops

Published April 17, 2020

Our web survey of over 600 shops shows that 21% are closed. We've told many stories of shops that remain open, here are four stories of shops that have closed, whether due to government mandate or personal choices.

Tim Brick, Owner, Brick Wheels, Traverse City, Michigan

"The state of Michigan forced our closure, it's just awful. Before that happened, we had a shop meeting on March 16th. I got the crew together, 'OK we need a plan.' I asked them to take an additional day off every week if it gets to that point so we could share the burden and the loss of income. If that doesn't work, we'll go on rotating unemployment.

"The next day we met again. One of our staff, with an 85-year old mom and a compromised husband, said she'd rather go on unemployment. All but a couple staff agreed. They said, 'Tim you're not the guy who goes to the counter and gets exposed.'

"So we decided to close, we can't run a 10,000 square foot store with 90% of our staff gone. We changed the signs and the phone message, and the next day our governor closed down the state.

"People wanted kids bikes for Easter and we did some illegal sales; we let people pick up their repair bikes, the two other shops next door and across the street did the same. Now I'm just trying to reorganize our inventory and clean up a bit.

"This is all really scary with no end in sight. I've applied for all the loans. I pre-season everything and my store is packed with $500,000 in inventory that I owe to my suppliers. Even if we're allowed to open back up, I don't think my employees would come in.

"Two things I've done this week, I just signed up for SmartEtailing so I can get into the online business. And I bought a scanning thermometer so we can test every customer coming in when we do re-open."

William Pratt, general manager, Cranked Bike Studio, Neenah, Wisconsin

"Because I tested positive for COVID-19 and because four other employees came down with similar flu-like symptoms, we decided to close for 10 days - March 29th to April 8th. We opened for our normal business hours on Thursday April 9th. In the next three days with weather in the 50s, we did enough business to make up for the days we were closed.

"Everyone's healed now and back at work. We are now fully open with normal hours and no restrictions on the number of customers in the store. Our staff is wearing masks and we're recommending but not requiring customers to wear one.

"I feel safer because I already got sick. The county health department told us that once you've gotten it, you're immune to getting it again. Just to be safe, I got retested (Wednesday) to make sure I'm not still a carrier.

Editor's note: On Thursday, Pratt told BRAIN he got the test result.

"Unfortunately the test came back positive again. I haven't got a straight answer yet, from all my doctors I see, whether that just means I had the virus and now have the antibodies to fight it off, or I have active COVID-19 again.

I have to get retested again on Tuesday April 21st."

Joe Hall, Owner, Quick Release Bike Shop, Chicago

"We closed on April 1st and will remain closed until May 1st per the recommendation of the state. My wife and I are both in the vulnerable age group. For a while we were open for appointments and only delivering bikes outside, but we were interacting more than we were comfortable with, for both ourselves and the customers.

"I was positive about gaining essential service status but our decision was more based on the prevailing wisdom of limited human interaction to deal with the pandemic. It wasn't really a business decision.

"We're a small shop. We would love to be integral to the transportation grid but that's just not the case in our area. Our young professional bike commuters are all working from home. Before we closed we were doing a few tune-ups, airing up tires, and it really didn't feel essential. Not enough for us to risk our health."

Luis Suarez, store manager, Trek Bicycle Ventura, Ventura, California

"It's been pretty confusing for us. We were open until April 3rd, and then the county health department decided that we were no longer an essential service and closed us down. Then on April 10th, Ventura county decided we could open up again.

"So now we're pretty much just open for service with curbside drop-off and pick up. Unfortunately, we're not allowed to let people in the store. We're also limited in how many people can be out front, people are waiting in their cars for their turn.

"We were having our best year ever through mid-March, we saw it as a breakout year for the store with our sales up 30-40% in the first ten weeks of 2020. Even so, it was a bit of a relief when they forced us to close because it felt safer. Then right away I got so many texts and calls from riders, 'I need to ride my bike,' then I was really torn about it."

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