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San Francisco's American Cyclery bounces back

Published July 6, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO (BRAIN) — The sales surge during the pandemic had more than a few shop owners thinking, “Maybe it’s time to sell.” Low inventory, plenty of cash, over a year of working too hard, retirement age looming if not already here … what better time to sell?

Bradley Woehl, owner of American Cyclery in San Francisco, is taking the opposite approach, reversing his plans to sell.

It started when he was forced to close for four months between December 2019 and April 2020 for a seismic retrofit.

“I had to lay off all my workers and extract the entire contents of my shop while they did a massive construction project,” Woehl recalled. “I thought things were winding down. Either I needed to sell the business or close up.”

So, just prior to the pandemic, Woehl put the shop on the market. No buyers came forward. Cue the COVID-19 pandemic and booming sales. “I did a complete remodel, renegotiated my lease to a reasonable rate, reopened the doors April 2, 2020, and ever since that day there’s been a line around the building,” Woehl said.

In nine months of being open for 2020 Woehl doubled his gross revenue over 2019 while lowering the store’s rent, payroll and overhead. What better way to celebrate the shop’s 80th anniversary?

Woehl’s experience and relationships paid off. He got bikes when others struggled. “We used every supplier we could to keep the store full,” noted Woehl. “We bought bikes from rental companies, off Alibaba, even from other shops in college towns. We got our hands on bikes we would have never considered selling pre-pandemic.”

In mid-2021, American Cyclery is on track to beat its 2020 numbers and the shop is no longer actively for sale. “Eventually I do need an exit strategy but I am happy to continue to make a living wage and make a real difference in my community,” concluded Woehl.

Woehl outside American Cyclery.

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