Wow. It. Just. Doesn’t. Stop. There is no question that people feel a need for what cycling offers. Since we can’t go out in social groups, the family unit becomes ever-more-important because they’re the only people, those living under the same roof, we’re allowed close contact with. And bicycles have served as a sort of effort-leveling device for young & old. If there are very young kids, say, 4-7, they’ll be on their 16 & 20-inch-wheel bikes with the parents walking behind. As they get a bit older and faster, the parents will be on their cruisers & hybrids, extending their range, sometimes pretty dramatically. Married couples who had never seen so much of each other, desperate to find something new to do, with getting out on a bike being a unique combination of social, exercise and seeing things in a new light.
And so they come to us, bringing bikes that had been sitting in a garage (if they’re lucky) or left outside in the yard, needing tires, chains, gears unstuck and more often than not having to be told “She’s dead, Jim” (immortal line from the original Star Trek). Our repairs are literally a month behind, our floor is running out of bikes. Nobody thought it would be like this. And having to plan our move to the new location at the same time? It’s like, you’ve got to be kidding.
Meantime I’m trying to keep riding as much as I usually would, “celebrating” the reopening of Huddart Park by riding through it on a Tuesday (we normally ride through Huddart on Thursday) with both Kevin (pilot) and Jenny, a local female legend who can hang with the infamous “morning” ride.
Updated 3/23/20 2:45pm What we’ve learned. Closing 6pm weekdays. Taking in repairs again.
We’ve survived almost a week of shelter-at-home so far. We’ve learned that people don’t get the 6 foot social distance thing in a retail environment so we’re blue-taping off-limits areas, especially in the repair diagnosis area. We’ve learned that we can’t allow people to inflate their tires using our air pumps inside the store; they can still borrow an air pump but it has to be done outside (a couple times Saturday we had multiple people waiting for their turn at the pump, inside the store). We’re working on workflow to minimize risk by doing something as simple as sanitizing credit card machines immediately PRIOR to each use, not after. Because you never know for sure if it was done previously.
We’ve also realized the inconvenient truth. That most every small local business that serves its local community is facing a really difficult choice. Close and lose money, or stay open and potentially lose even more money, as the reduced (or entirely missing) sales during the shelter-at-home don’t meet staff wages, much less rent. Most of us will survive this initial 3 week, but if (if?) it’s extended another 3 weeks? Or more? The things that make life convenient and even fun, those things that make local local, are all at risk. Small businesses don’t get to suffer a $248 billion loss and somehow magically stay in business. We’re not “too big to fail.”
If you see legislation in the news that is aimed at helping small, local businesses survive, please think about us and support it. In return, we’ll support the communities that we’ve worked with for so many years now, feeling good about our decisions to stay locally-focused because… because that’s what we believe in. We’ve invested in buildings and employees and projects where you live. If you don’t live near us, let’s say you live in Paducah Kentucky, there’s a local shop that is better geared to taking care of you than anyone on-line can. Martha & Hutch are as passionate about their community as we are about ours. As are thousands of local bike shops across the country.
The rest of our previous piece here is pretty much old news by now. Bike shops are officially considered essential for their service to the bicycle as transportation, much of that due to the efforts of many local shops who have lobbied for better cycling infrastructure. Our hours are reduced; 11am-6pm weekdays, because there is no longer an “after work” crowd coming in. Saturdays still 10am-6pm and closed Sundays. Repair work is focusing on what can be done pretty quickly to keep you on the road. Staffing is reduced because we’re in a “stay home if feeling not great” mode, knowing that a “cold” is still a thing but you can’t be too careful. But we are here to keep you going. It’s a relationship that’s worked for 40 years. We’re doing what we can for many more.
Thank you, Mike & Steve Jacoubowsky, Partners, Chain Reaction Bicycles