At a time when more people are pedaling, our area will kick off the new year with one fewer bike shop. Customers were told that longtime fixture Performance Bicycle in Seminole Square will close by the end of January, following the bankruptcy of Philadelphia-based parent company Advanced Sports Enterprises.
“It’s sad to see it close, sad for the people who work there,” says Andrew Sterling, an amateur bike builder and casual rider in Charlottesville. “The number of bicycle stores is shrinking. I’m surprised.”
Sterling points out that in addition to Performance, Cville Bike and Tri closed within the past four or so years. At the same time, other local bike experts say ridership is still growing.
The apparent disparity traces to overcrowding in the local market. Scott Paisley, co-owner of Blue Wheel Bikes, which was established in 1973, says industry norms suggest a city like Charlottesville can sustain about three bike shops.
Today, aside from chain store Performance, the city has Blue Wheel, two Blue Ridge Cyclery locations, the Bike Factory, Endeavour Bicycles, and Community Bikes, plus outlying businesses like Crozet Bicycle Shop.
No one at the local Performance store would speak with the media, and store manager Tim Gathright, who has been with the company 22 years, referred us to ASE, which had not responded at press time.
Performance was doing poorly two years ago. In August 2016, Advanced Sports International merged with Performance Bicycle and ASE became the parent company to both. Sales and profit growth lagged on the retail side, an ASE media release noted.
Performance has been known for its “head-scratchingly low prices,” and the low margins made profits difficult, according to Bicycling magazine.
Its closing could leave a sizeable amount of business available to other local stores. Shawn Tevendale, owner of Blue Ridge Cyclery, says that information he has puts Charlottesville as a $5 million to $6 million market for retail bicycles. Of that total, Performance has a 15 percent to 20 percent share, in the annual range from about $750,000 to $1.2 million.
Paisley says the pending departure of Performance may or may not significantly lift his business. “It’s always been hard to keep our nose above water,” he says. He credits the store’s 45-year longevity to co-owner Roger Friend’s attention to the bottom line and their ability to make financial sacrifices in the face of both brick-and-mortar and internet competition.
Tevendale is more optimistic. “Every retailer in Charlottesville stands to benefit from this and it will allow some other businesses to succeed.” He says he may be able to expand his team of 13.
“Cycling in Charlottesville is tricky,” says Paisley, “ but doable.”
Updated January 7 to add the Bike Factory among remaining bike shops.