Big Ring Cycles switches to repair-only as it gears up to weather COVID-19 crisis

"At some point, its going to hurt a lot"

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/30/20

At most stores, customers are welcome — even encouraged — to touch and pick up merchandise as they browse. But as of March 26, that's no longer the case at Big Ring Cycles in Golden. For now, if …

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Big Ring Cycles switches to repair-only as it gears up to weather COVID-19 crisis

"At some point, its going to hurt a lot"

Posted

At most stores, customers are welcome — even encouraged — to touch and pick up merchandise as they browse. But as of March 26, that's no longer the case at Big Ring Cycles in Golden.

For now, if customers need a part for their bike, they must call the store, describe what it is they need and pay for it over the phone using a credit card. Then, when they come to the store to pick up the part, they are met with a lockbox that has been placed outside.

“Then when I see them come up to the door, I hand them the key with a really long rope and they unlock the lock and take the product,” said store owner Seth Wolins.

The introduction of that complex process for getting parts to customers (the store is no longer selling bikes for the time being) is the latest step Wolins said he and his staff have taken as they attempt to keep customers and staff safe while continuing to partially operate in the misdt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although it has been presented challenges for seemingly all businesses, Wolins said it has been a real roller coaster for Big Ring.

Initially, the rise of social distancing in Colorado brought a boom in the store's business.

“I've been seeing bikes that probably haven't been ridden in years and people are suddenly dusting them off,” said Phil Dixon, a bike service professional at the shop. “And it just seems like more stuff is breaking because people are riding more than they usually do.”

But the COVID-19 situation has also presented obstacles as Wolins and his staff implemented increasingly intensive prevention measures, including limiting the number of people who could be in the store to five or less.

Then new round of challenges came on March 25, when Jefferson County Public Health issued an order that residents stay at home, except when participating in essential activities and patronizing or working at certain essential businesses. That order listed bicycle repair — but not sales of bikes — as an essential business, meaning Wolins would be able to continue to operate that portion of his business.

But then, just a few hours later, Gov. Jared Polis issued his own stay-at-home order for the entire state. Polis' order, which superceded JCPH's although Wolins said that was not initially clear to him, did not list bicycle repair shops as an essential business, leaving Wolin to conclude he would need to close down for the duration of the order.

But then, the next day, Polis amended the order to include bicycle repair shops. With the revised order now in place, Wolins said he is planning to continue to offer repairs at the shop.

But even as he is glad his business will be able to continue to offer repairs — at least for the time being — Wolins said he remains frustrated by the confusing way the stay-at-home orders came down.

“When you have two orders that don't agree, it leaves a lot of gray area for us and that's tough on a business because you are making it the business owner's decision and that's hard when you are trying to consider keeping the lights on, keeping people employed and doing what's right for the country. If it had been a little more prescriptive that would have made life a little clearer for us.”

But even with the way forward now seemingly clarified, Wolins said he is still deeply concerned about what lies ahead. Bike repairs and sales of parts alone won't cover all of the business' expenses and while Wolins said the strong sales the shop had for most of March will allow it to weather a weak April, he said the losses will start to mount if the store cannot resume selling bikes in May, as seems increasingly possible.

“My wife and I will do everything we have to do to keep things moving but at some point its going to hurt a lot,” he said.

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