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Residents protested the mayor's bike shop opening. So he offered them a discount

Published May 13, 2020
Owner has fun with group upset that Vitesse Cycle Shop is considered an essential business.

NORMAL, Ill. (BRAIN) — Bike retailer Chris Koos figured the best way to diffuse the protest of his shop was offering an exclusive sale.

"PROTESTER FLASH SALE! Protesters Only 5-6 p.m. Bike Parts And Accessories On Sale!" read the banner above the door of Vitesse Cycle Shop on May 7.

Koos is also the mayor of Normal, a town of about 55,000 in central Illinois. The group of 12, including a couple who have run against him for mayor in past non-partisan elections, protested because the town remains closed to non-essential businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bike shops in Illinois are considered essential.

"Any time I do anything bike-advocacy related, (they think) it's because I'm just trying to sell bikes," Koos told BRAIN on Wednesday and added he got wind of the protest in advance and had the banner ready. "It's an ongoing issue with them."

The banner "was as much of a joke as anything," he said. "Our response was, if they come in, we'll give them sale prices."

None did.

The protest was organized by a Facebook group, Koos said, and billed as an "Open Our Community Social Distancing Walk. Please no swastikas or racial references. The mayor of Normal has threatened to hand out citations and arrest any citizen who does not freely surrender their freedom. ..."

"So they had a little corner protest and walked over to my store," said Koos, who added he didn't issue any citations nor have anybody arrested.

After the protest ended peacefully, the group contacted Gateway Pundit, a conservative website publishing under the slogan, "We Report the Truth — and Leave the Russia-Collusion Fairy Tale to the Conspiracy Media." It posted a story about the protest and Koos' reaction with the banner.

"So the next day, Saturday morning, we started getting harassment phone calls after it was posted on that website," said Koos, who has owned Vitesse Cycle Shop for 42 years. "And we actually had two death threats to my employees. And then they started bombing our website. They were kind of harassing us. That's the world we live in."

The cycling world has certainly changed for Koos since the pandemic hit two months ago with sales up 71% and constant service requests. "I call bikes the new toilet paper."

With a staff of three mechanics and three salespeople, Koos said customers are allowed inside his 6,000 square-foot store with social-distancing and face-mask requirements. Through his 42 years, he's now seen it all.

"This year's problem is supply," he said. "Everyone got caught blindsided. We're appreciative that bike stores are considered essential because I think a lot of people outside the industry don't realize how many people rely on their bikes for transportation. The unique thing going on right now is people getting the chance to recreate with social distancing. And it gives families something to do. I mean, kids bike sales have been crazy."

Topics associated with this article: Coronavirus

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