Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series about how locally-owned, small businesses in the Longview area are faring — and in some cases surviving — in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Business is booming at Longview’s Woolley G’s Bike & Fitness, despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing an industry-wide shortage of bicycles and the parts needed to repair them.
“We have been really, really lucky throughout the entire year of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic,” co-owner and operator David Hernandez said. “We have seen a lot of sales and service work, just people coming in to facilitate their outdoor adventures a little bit more now than ever before. So, we have been really happy through (the pandemic) from a business perspective.”
Woolley G’s sells bikes, accessories, nutrition products and apparel and offers maintenance and repair services. The store also hosts group bike rides for the community.
Founded by Gordon Woolley in 1974, the store changed hands a few times before Hernandez, David Townsend and Gary Ford purchased the business together in December 2019.
“We will service anything from an entry-level big box store Huffy all the way up to the top end Trek or Specialized,” Hernandez said. “Any brand, any make we will take care of it and do the best we can to get your ride in as good a shape as possible.”
Since the pandemic began, people have been turning to alternative modes of transportation and getting into fitness and outdoor activities. In March, children’s bike sales increased 56%, and adult leisure bike sales increased 121%, according to the NPD Group, a market research group that monitors consumer purchase data across a variety of industries.
Since March, most people walking through the doors have been new customers, Hernandez said.
With the pandemic causing what the industry is calling a “bike boom,” certain bikes and parts have become harder to get, Hernandez said. Because of this, the store is placing larger orders of entry-level bikes and gear than it did pre-pandemic in an attempt to maintain stock over longer periods of time.
However, orders of custom bikes are taking longer, Hernandez said. That’s because factories have been shut down, shipping rates are slower and parts for bike have been harder to come by.
Traditionally, maintenance and repairs have been the largest stream of business for the shop, Hernandez said. Even with the recent increase in new bike sales, service still remains king.
“Running out of bikes has been a huge component of this. Those who can’t get the bike they want within their price range are resorting to dusting off old bikes out of the garage,” Hernandez said. “That means they are bringing them in for service.”
For the past four months, the shop has had about a three-week turnaround on services, Hernandez said.
“Typically, we have a 24- to 48-hour turnaround on service,” he said.
The shop also hosts group rides several times a week for people of all skill levels, from beginners to competitive riders on-road or off-road.
When the pandemic arrived in the Longview area in March, the shop stopped having group rides; however, it resumed them in mid-summer.
“It’s all outside. We are meeting outside, and generally speaking, most cyclists are on the healthy side of things,” Hernandez said. “I think there is a huge mental piece to riding your bike. For me personally, it contributes to my daily stress level and overall mental happiness and well-being.”
On Monday and Tuesday nights, the shop hosts road rides. On Thursday nights, it focuses on mountain bike rides, and on Saturdays, the shop facilitates a larger group road ride.