The showroom is empty but for a couple children’s bicycles and various accessories. While bike sales have been brisk across the country, Nick Coy hasn’t been able to restock after selling …
The showroom is empty but for a couple children’s bicycles and various accessories. While bike sales have been brisk across the country, Nick Coy hasn’t been able to restock after selling out of his inventory in May. He’s now planning to lock the door to Larsen’s Bicycles on New Year’s Eve and “walk away.”
He’s heartbroken about the way it’s ending. He’s been at the shop at 255 E. Second St. in downtown Powell for 29 years. The business, previously owned by Buzz Larsen, has been the only bike shop in town for nearly 50 years. Coy worked for Larsen for four years before buying the business.
But during this pandemic, his vendors haven’t been able to keep up with demand as outdoor sports became more popular through social distancing efforts. Coy was making it work on repair services, but then couldn’t get needed parts. He harvested all the good parts he had from used bikes until he ran out of those as well, he said. Without a solid plan to take delivery of new stock, Coy has been forced to make the hard decision.
“It doesn’t seem to be getting better. Nobody can really say whether they’re gonna have bikes this coming spring and summer,” he said. “The whole business model has changed for small shops.”
Companies like Specialized fill the big stores first, said Vicky Coy.
“It kind of forces out the little guy,” she said. “If you don’t have big preseason orders, and say you’ll take X number of bikes, then you’re on the bottom of their list. They’re also selling a lot more parts and accessories online. We really feel the competition from online sales. And the lack of repair parts is huge.”
It’s not just a struggle for Nick and Vicky, who’ve been running the shop alone all these years.
Bike shops across the country have been struggling to find inventory. As folks looked for an alternate means of exercise when gyms closed, bikes were an antidote to cabin fever. Vendors were caught off guard and, as warehouses quickly emptied, they couldn’t keep up.
“Every bike shop owner and employee in this country is completely exhausted right now. This has just been an incredible challenge,” said Ray Keener, retail editor of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News and former executive director of the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association in an interview in Modern Retail.
Chris Guyer, owner of Joyvagen Bicycle Shop in Cody, said they usually have 75 to 100 bikes in the shop.
As of late last week, “I have eight bikes on the floor for sale,” Guyer said. “We also have a handful of consignment demos that we’re selling off. So we have stuff to sell. But it’s not like a typical year.”
It’s a rough position to be in during the top sales season. The Christmas season is traditionally a great time to sell bikes, Nick Coy said. “We used to have bikes lined up and waiting.”
Now there are only a couple used models on the floor and accessories like saddles, tires, a single skateboard and some riding gear among the Christmas sale decorations. If the used bikes don’t sell soon, he plans to donate them.
There is an upside for the Coys, as they haven’t been able to take a summer vacation for decades.
“It really ties you down as a single proprietorship,” Vicky said.
If promised vaccines materialize and travel is possible, the couple plans to hit the road. Nick is looking forward to riding his bike whenever and wherever he wants and in locations he’s only been able to dream about until now. And the couple looks forward to riding in warm weather.
“The thing about having a bike shop, you are busy, busy, busy, the whole biking season,” Vicky said. “Then it gets to be winter and you have time to go but the weather isn’t right.”
At 63, Nick said it may be time to retire. But if you think he’s done on a bike, you don’t know Nick. “I love bikes,” he said.
This summer, Coy entered a race sponsored by Joyvagen. It was an open class race, so he had to compete against kids a third his age. The race even attracted a Tour De France professional rider, yet Nick finished near the top.
“He crushed it. He’s an animal,” said Guyer, of Joyvagen. “If I was in his position, I’d be stoked to ride my bike all summer.”
For those looking for repairs or a new bike, the closest shops will now be in Cody, Worland or Billings. Guyer said they will weather the storm.
“I think they did a great job in Powell,” he said. “We’d like to support the cycling community going forward as much as we can. We’re trying to rally to figure out what we can do.”