GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every business from large to small. It hasn’t held back.
Its impact, however, hasn’t been all bad. One Grand Rapids business is enjoying a boom like it’s never seen in its more than 40-year history.
Freewheeler Bike Shop along Leonard Street west of Alpine Avenue had reason to fear, at one time, they would run out of bikes.
“We are busier than ever. You couldn’t expect it, couldn’t prepare for it. It’s been nuts,” said Curt Bryan, the owner of Freewheeler Bike Shop. “I would have never thought, especially for that. I don’t remember how long it was, maybe six weeks or so we were strictly doing all our business out the side door. We couldn’t even let people in the building and we, like I said, are now busier than ever.”
A surge in cycles, an unintended positive result of the pandemic which forced everyone to self-isolate and stay indoors. As things slowly reopened, including Freewheel’s shop, people quickly hit the pavement to find a city ready to welcome them.
“Ironically, over 10 years ago we had our first bicycle summit in the city of Grand Rapids. Talking about what do we need to do to be a safer city for cyclists,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “It’s great to see more people out cycling. Even if it is a side effect of the pandemic, I think getting people outside and people being more active is always a good thing, I think is a really the positive thing.”
Bryan felt biffed when bike shops in Michigan were not deemed essential as they were in neighboring states. Had sales not spiked, Bryan was afraid his business would suffer.
“We couldn’t sell anything strictly online for weeks when this first started. Then we were selling out the side door, couldn’t even let anyone inside the showroom floor and then things erupted,” Bryan said. “It’s kind of like a perfect storm, to be honest with you. It’s new people looking for a $300-$400 bike or someone that’s an avid cyclist that’s looking to spend a $300-$400 bike because that’s their hobby.”
It’s a hobby that can be expensive but for those simply looking for a way to stay active and have a little fun outside of the house, there are much less costly options available.
“Whatever we have, we’re selling right now. The bikes are flying off the shelves, not only that though but our repair shop is loaded with bikes people have brought in for repairs” Bryan said. “Right now, there is a shortage of bikes so we sold through pretty much everything we had. We’re getting more bikes every couple of days it seems like, but a lot of people are buying used bikes and bringing them in to get tune-ups and what not. So, the service department is overwhelmed out of belief. Get a bike if you can find one no matter where it is, I guess.”
Bliss says she’s happy the city had the foresight to welcome the surge.
“The medical research shows that the virus spreads less when people are outside. So that’s why you see this big push to get people outside” Bliss said. “I’m so grateful that some of our local businesses have figured out how to pivot really quickly and do what they can to survive this pandemic. There’s just a lot of opportunities to explore our city locally, and you can do that on a bike.”
Bryan hopes his hardworking crew can continue to ride the rush and provide bicycles and repairs for everyone who is ready to hit the road.
“I’ve heard in the past of some crazy seasons, but this is by far the craziest I’ve seen in what 20, 28 years I’ve been here, I guess.”