Published in Small Business
Central District Cyclery is located at 1309 Plainfield Ave. NE in Grand Rapids’ Creston Neighborhood. Central District Cyclery is located at 1309 Plainfield Ave. NE in Grand Rapids’ Creston Neighborhood. PHOTO: KATE CARLSON

Central District Cyclery keeps busy as more people bicycle during pandemic

BY Sunday, June 07, 2020 05:10pm

GRAND RAPIDS — While most small businesses have been struggling and closing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Central District Cyclery has been overwhelmed with business over the last few months.

With an increase in people with more time on their hands because of the coronavirus, Central District Cyclery Owner Nate Phelps said he’s seen a lot of new riders. Phelps estimated that he and his three part-time employees are repairing about 50-60 bikes a week. Sales were up last month by about $20,000-$25,000 compared to May 2019. 

Located at 1309 Plainfield Ave. NE in Grand Rapids’ Creston Neighborhood, Central District Cyclery specializes in mountain bikes. Currently, the shop is operating on an appointment-only basis for bike repairs and is limited to two customers in the showroom at a time. 

“It’s been working well; I think we might keep operating this way,” he said. 

Bicycle repair shops were among the first few businesses that were allowed to reopen on April 24 under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s revised stay-home order. During about a month of being shut down, business was kind of scary, Phelps said. The company was able to maintain some cash flow after receiving a contract from the City of Grand Rapids to fix city and Grand Rapids Police Department bikes. 

Business is now booming, but the increase in people biking is causing a few supply issues, he said. Central District is sold out of bikes currently, and is unable to get more in stock. Certain parts also are taking longer to order and some are out of stock.

“I think customers are going to be looking for end-of-the-year sales, and that’s not going to happen this year because it will be sold out,” Phelps said.

Because of all the demand, the company is not able to take walk-in appointments, which customers had been accustomed to over the shop’s history. 

“The community has been really supportive,” Phelps said. “I’ve seen a lot of department store bikes that have been dusted off because people have time to ride again.”

Many of the company’s loyal customers have visited over the past couple of months, but new riders are making up a large chunk of the business in the last few months, he added.

“I’m seeing a ton of new faces to me, and they outweigh my regulars,” Phelps said. “If you’re in the biking world and start to be part of the biking community, it’s pretty receptive. People have had enough time off right now and it’s a bit of a habit that you fall into.”

It remains unlikely that everyone will keep biking as more parts of the economy start to reopen, but some people will develop a new affinity for the sport, Phelps said.

“I’ve seen more families riding together,” he said. “The trails are full, everybody is out there, so I do think some people will stick with it.”

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