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Local retailers continue to peddle through the hardships created by COVD-19 –

was written by , 2020-08-03 20:21:20

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By Ashely Napier, SMDP intern

As residents continue to persevere through California’s second round of lockdown orders, local bicycle retailers are also trying to race through the hardships created by COVID-19.

Bicycle retailers and repair shops are essential businesses, meaning they are not subjected to the COVID closures that have been implemented in recent months. Despite being able to stay open to the public, many are facing unique challenges that prevent them from pursuing business as usual.

Ron Durgin, owner of The Bike Center in Downtown Santa Monica, has experienced many of the same challenges faced by his peers in the bike industry, but the longtime businessman believes he has made positive strides to keep his business going strong in recent times.

“Really early on, like in April, we were only open one day a week, then demand kept going up,” Durgin said, as he detailed how The Bike Center was eventually able to increase operating hours to six days a week by June.

Even with the recent rush of repairs and sales, Durgin has had to make serious changes to his open storefront, including closing the garage-style doors in an effort to limit the number of customers inside to just one at a time. He has also hired vendors to thoroughly clean the store and bikes with an EPA-approved sanitizing vaporizer and even went as far as remodeling the retail area to comply with the six-foot distancing mandate. But the biggest change to his shop, Durgin said, is that access to the bike lockers is currently closed to the public and he doesn’t envision them reopening anytime soon.

However, according to Durgin, “we are up more than double our normal volume,” and that doesn’t account for the rental side of his business, which he estimates has seen a 20% increase from years past.

Although the recent rental and sales numbers have been somewhat positive, Durgin explained his business is “way down” when you compare the stats to what a normal July in Santa Monica typically looks like.

Other cycle retailers are experiencing similar effects due to the lack of tourism, including Spokes ‘N Stuff owner Joey Harris, who owns three locations on the Westside in places like Santa Monica, Venice and on Melrose Avenue.

Harris said his Santa Monica location is experiencing a 75 percent decrease in revenue, which he attributes to both a lack of tourism and residents wanting to stay indoors. Harris added his Venice location was hit hardest by the downtick in tourism and shared he is only able to keep it open on weekends at the moment, while he is struggling to keep his Santa Monica location open seven days a week.

Harris believes there is a double standard since he is taking steps to keep his business clean and safe, but there are no health regulations imposed on dockless scooters and bicycles seen around the city.

“I am very disappointed in the dockless scooters and bicycles,” Harris says. Because, while he is sanitizing his bicycles after every use, “those (scooters) are the ones that are spreading the virus from person to person. I think that there is something wrong with that.”

As he detailed the ramifications of forcibly closing businesses to abide by COVID-19 regulations, and how local officials have not provided enough protection for small businesses during recent looting attempts, Harris said he wants to see local and federal officials protect small businesses like his own, because he believes the government is treating small businesses, “like sacrificial lambs,” during an era of economic uncertainty.

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