Tuesday, shortly before noon, a line stretched in front of Turin Bicycles, on the edge of the Golden Triangle. Customers had shown up early to get deals at Denver’s oldest bike shop, which will close in the coming weeks.
Inside, shelving was rare. The hundreds of bikes that once cluttered the store were largely gone. Mechanics worked on the bikes, and co-general managers Mike Stejskal and Dave Wileden made sure inventory was priced for the sale. Each item sold would help founder and owner Alan Fine in his retirement, which he had to hasten for personal reasons.
The store announced on social media that it would close on Saturday.
“To everyone in the Denver cycling community with whom we have shared our passion for over 50 years, our hearts are heavy to announce that Turin Bicycles will be closing next month. It has been an incredible ride for everyone. we who had the honor to serve you in Turin. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts,” the message read.
“Alan has been looking forward to retirement for some time now and the development pressure is tightening so after 50 years serving Denver, it’s time to say goodbye, at least for now,” he continued. “Mike and Dave, two long-time employees, are working to relocate the business and hope to return next year to a new location.”
The out of business sale will continue until everything is sold out, and if Stejskal and Wileden reopen, they will change the business model.
The store’s closure was inconceivable four years ago, when founder and owner Alan Fine signed a letter of intent to sell the store to Stejskal and Wileden when he retired.
The Denver institution has been around for over half a century.
Fine founded the store in 1971, hoping to transform Denver’s cycling culture. He opened the current Turin location at 7th Avenue and Lincoln Street in 1991. For most of this time, Fine owned the building.
In early 2020, just before COVID hit Colorado, he sold to developer Charlie Woolley’s St. Charles Town Co. and announced he would transfer ownership to Stejskal and Wileden. Both, who had worked at the store for more than twenty years, were enthusiastic about the idea. Their whole life has been spent in Turin: their work, their community, their pride.
Then the pandemic hit. And eventually, St. Charles Town Co. decided to raise the rent beyond what the store could afford, which effectively kicked Turin out of the neighborhood.
When Fine needed to hasten his retirement, Stejskal and Wileden went to the banks to get a loan to buy the store, but so far they have been unsuccessful.
It’s not just rising rents that are forcing Turin to shut down, Stejskal said.
Supply chain disruptions slowed sales. Profit margins are slimmer than they were before. People are ordering bikes and supplies online instead of buying from physical stores, and the initial enthusiasm for bikes that drove sales in the first year of the pandemic has faded. The whole industry is in crisis and the Golden Triangle is no longer as affordable for a small business as it once was. Finding a new accessible storefront in the area proved impossible.
The business model itself may need updating. As a medium-sized bike shop, Turin has neither the buying power of corporate bike shops nor the niche market of small shops that have sprung up around the city. Unlike nearby EVO, which sells both winter sports equipment and bikes, Turin is a one-stop sports shop. Enthusiasm for cycling runs from early spring to mid-summer, and sales slow down around July.
Add to that worries for the future. Although the store is currently well-staffed, the city’s ever-increasing cost of living has made low wages for mechanics undesirable for those who know how to fix bikes. Convincing workers to come to a store during a pandemic, when many needed to work from home, was a tough sell, Stejskal said. It is therefore increasingly difficult to find talented workers to stick around.
“You can’t blame everything on the pandemic, but it certainly exacerbated many other existing problems,” Stejskal said.
It’s possible Turin will reopen at a different location in the future, Stejskal said, although the two chief executives have no plans to reopen in 2022.
Many of the issues the store is facing are industry-wide, but general managers are still hopeful they can open elsewhere.
“When you add up all of these variables of high rent, timing, availability, tight margins, you know, all of those things, if you were to take a couple of those variables out of the equation, then we don’t give a damn out from the bank just as easily,” Stejskal said.
Reopening somewhere in the neighborhood is a possibility managers are considering – although Torino may not be able to return for a few years.
With denser, mixed-use development in the Golden Triangle district and thousands of additional potential customers settling in the area in the years to come, the co-managers are certain that Turin could serve a vital function and generate profits if she could. stay or reopen in the region.
Fine has given general managers permission to use the Turin name if they decide to open a new bike shop, and they’ve talked to developers about setting up a retail business on the ground floor. floor in one of many new developments to come. region.
But before opening a new Turin – or a store under another name – they said they needed a break.
“It’s really hard to see around the corner,” Stejskal said, “to see what we’ll do next.”