South Salem Cycleworks
(503) 480-2001
email: sscycleworks@comcast.net

September 30, 2018: Closing the Storefront: The Full Story

Shop owner Michael Wolfe was diagnosed with a recurrence of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in June. On these pages he has been chronicling both his treatment and his life on the bike and in the shop. While we don't have our shop on Liberty Road , we remain very much in the bike businees, with a giant inventory of vintage and modern components, frames and bikes available on-line.

Earlier Posts about riding, Lymphoma Therapy and the bicycle business


September 30, 2018.
There’s been so much water under that bridge! I hardly know where to start, and am surprised to see the bridge still standing!

Lost wheel sign

The way we were. Our sign with the cyclist with the missing wheel.

Sometime in February, with a pending divorce, I moved to my folks' house. Moreover, in December of 2017 I had fallen off my bike and injured myself while climbing Skyline. That was the last hill on my bucket list, following my last round chemotherapy.

While I was unable to drive, let alone ride a bike, my folks continued, along with many friends, to navigate me to various destinations. Initially, I recovered in a recliner, cleaning and restoring vintage parts.

Michael Wolfe

Cleaning parts at my folks' house.

I spent some time at the shop, while my energy and knee could take it, and it was during one of those occasions, that the landlord popped in and informed me of the potential sale of the building. Smith and Goldsmith were one of Salem’s largest residential rentals, my building being the one commercial-zoned property. The family board of the business was getting older, and the younger set had expressed no interest in getting involved. They’d finally found a buyer for most of the residential properties, and didn’t feel that the few remaining, including my building, were worth managing. The landlord told me he’d make me a really great deal, out of consideration for the 25 plus years I’d occupied the building, but the sum he disclosed was subject to approval of the board, and an assessment of the property’s current value.

While the price he mentioned was what I thought anyone would purchase it for, I knew the roof in the back half of the building would need extensive repair, as it had been leaking badly for several years, and when clearing seasonal debris off it, I could certainly feel the “bounce” as I walked across it. We’d fashioned funnels in a couple places in the building, with hoses leading to buckets which we had to empty—sometimes twice a day, depending on the weather. My prior looking at buildings to buy led me to estimate $50,000-$100,000 to replace the roof.

Leaky roof

A leaky roof in the rainy pacific northwest made for a lot of extra work.

Leaky Roof

The roof would have to be repaired.

Nate, my nephew-in-law, and shop manager, was leaving at the end of May. He’d procured a job that was M-F, 8-5, sitting at a desk with other benefits. No secretary, however! He’ll have to light his own cigar and procure his own coffee! But, I was facing a summer without a backup, someone who could run the shop daily, and with my many visits to doctors, and the possibility of the cancer returning, his leaving left me with one more worry.

So, it was with reluctance that I decided to shut the shop down. The landlord returned at the end of March, and having re-evaluated the value of the building, made me a good-guy-offer of nearly twice what he mentioned earlier. Given the other circumstances, and my age, and that the commercial zoning was a grandfather clause (if the building sits vacant for a year, it reverts to a residential/multi-family zoning), I couldn’t see buying the property — perhaps, 10-15 years ago, I might have done so, but with all the complications, the roof’s condition, and the price, I had to decline the offer. He explained that with the lease up, the board wanted me out by the end of May. I asked for another season, until September, to liquidate my inventory, but the board wanted the building empty so as to fix the roof and get it on the market as soon as possible.

Selling the stock

Time to get some inventory sold

We continued to do repairs, besides packing, perhaps longer than we should have, but I felt obligated to long-term customers to continue service for them.

Still doing repairs

We kept doing repairs for our customers, to whom we owed so much.

I went on the internet numerous times looking for an ideal warehouse, but found they were either too expensive, too small, or too far away. I consulted Shadya Jones, a commercial real estate agent and former owner of a Torelli bike, as to what I might do. She suggested storage units, and after some searching found one nearby that had some larger units. Rules, regulations and limited hours were the trade off, but it fit within the time lines of space, money and distance. I was hopeful I could condense the inventory to half of the shop space, but knew I’d need shelving, and a toolbox big enough to accommodate the many tools that had hung of the repair walls.

Buying Storage Shelves

We had to get storage shelves...

New Toolbox

...and a new toolbox

The units were extremely tall, and the available shelves would need to be stacked higher. One couldn’t order couplers to stack them on top of each other, so I began making them. After making the first set, I realized how many I’d need, and got Di, my former manager, to help with the cutting of angle iron and drilling the appropriate holes. A belt saw and drill press were much faster than my Sawsall and Holeshooter.

Making Shlef Extensions

We had to make our own shelf couplers.

Michael Wolfe

Putting the crutches to the side to make a shelf coupler

So, there I was, on crutches still, wearing a knee brace, unable to drive, and having to find a place to move the vast majority of the inventory! Going to the shop became a daily occurrence, with long hours, and thankfully, my folks brought me lunch and coffee, and had a dinner waiting for me when I finally called it quits each day. Choosing what to donate, trash, or keep was a tiring task. I estimate nearly $30,000 of used bicycles, parts and accessories were donated to the “non-profit” shop in town. My truck and my Subaru wagon were filled daily. Nate Taylor, Brad Bahr and Bruce McIntosh tried to keep the repairs underway as well as packing and sorting inventory. We ran specials to try to rapidly reduce the inventory, but 60 days isn’t much to reduce nearly 30 years of business.

Donation bikes

Some of the donation bikes

We moved the expensive shop sign (required individual letters!) we’d used up at Sunnyslope out in the driveway, after moving so much inventory out of the way of its storage. The land use of the building prohibited its placement on the exterior, but I’d always hoped that we could get a variance if I bought the building or moved to another. It was disheartening to watch it trucked away with the junkman. I tried to hide my remorse by remaining as upbeat as I could, even coming out of the back with a santa hat on and holding paddles, asking where that mythical creek was, but it was difficult to face an uncertain future.

Shop Sign

The dismantled shop sign and fixtures waiting to be carted off.

Shop sign

Loaded it to be taken away.

Somewhere, before we actually ceased to sell merchandise, I sold a Regina freewheel to a guy in California that was restoring Greg Lemond’s junior race bike. The ratio was right, but the body was too new. I offered to switch bodies with another freewheel if he’d send it back, which he did. I managed to remove the cogs off the newer body, but the grease on the cog threads on the older body had long ago turned to glue. I innovated, using the Park headset press to help hold the freewheel in place, but broke the tool!

Regina Freewheel

Working on the Regina freewheel

Regina freewheel

The tool couldn't withstand the needed force.

I used a cheater bar on the correct tool to supply more leverage, and three times the tool slipped! Each of those times, I slammed into the workbench as it slipped. On the fourth attempt, not only did I slam into the workbench when the tool slipped, but lost my balance and landed on the floor. It was extremely painful, but I was sure I’d just bruised my right thigh. The next morning found the pain to be no different, and so off I went to the emergency room once more! It was determined after an X-Ray, that I’d done an in-place fracture of my femur, most likely due to the leverage of the knee brace. I might have injured my knee, perhaps tore some scar tissue, had I not worn the knee brace. That was the last time I wore the brace however!

Tearing down pegboard and ripping out workstations, taking shelves apart, revealed the caricatures we’d each drawn on the wallpaper 25 years ago before putting up the pegboard!

Behind the pegboard

Behind the pegboard

Kent Cacak, Ken Johnson, Brian Noon, Mark Demcak, Eric, Sydney VonFlue, Barbara and I had been excited about constructing a new work and sales floor in a building not run by a property management company, without all the separate fees that accompany business in a mall.

Ken and Kent

Ken Johnson and Kent Cacak back when.

Brian Noon

Brian Noon

Again, it was disheartening to see the high hopes we had back then. The building had only sat vacant for a short while back then, the former business, Budget Decorator, had gone bankrupt. Before we moved in, we asked about the possibility of renting to own, and the two founding members of the board, agreed to do so. However, the current landlord, the son of one of the founders, put the kibosh on that.

We were uncovering boxes of magazines and articles that I’d meant to organize decades earlier, and seeing merchandise display stands that I hadn’t used for years—all led to a constant stream of stuff placed out front for free, as advertised on Craig’s List. A sled was accidentally placed out there, and it was gone before it could be retrieved!

Michael

Sports of all sorts...

GT Mobile

A GT Mobile. Wouldn't need that anymore.

Rite-Way catalogue

And of course, countless wholesaler's and manufacturer's catalogues

Sock display

So many fixtures. Here's a sock display.

Glass showcase

A glass showcase.

showcase

A showcase filled with memorabilia.

Glass showcase

Became this glass box destined for storage.

The inventory to be kept had to be boxed, and while Marilyn Monson, a dear customer, kept us well supplied with apple boxes from all over town, we still welcomed the many boxes Bruce McIntosh, an employee, brought from his recent move from Texas. Mary Becker, another dear customer, brought boxes of trash bags and a selection of packing tape when it became obvious that we wouldn’t have enough wheel or bike boxes!

Packing and sorting

There was so much to sort and pack.

Packing and sorting

It took thirty years to aquire it all and we had just a few weeks to get it all catalogued and packed.

Rear tail lights

Lots of rear tail lights along with a motto

I was trying to list what was in each box by inventory number and description, knowing that doing so in the storage units afterwards would be a long and frustrating job. I found myself a bottleneck frequently with the flow of inventory to the units. I couldn’t have done it without Marilyn’s assistance, as I was often torn away with the many questions that arose in this chaos! She diligently continued to pack and label inventory, learning a lot in the process, and was assisted on more than one occasion by Bill and Carol McGann, the founders of Torelli bicycles.

Paclking labels

The final result: boxes with stock carefully packed and listed

I can’t thank Di Foley, my former shop manager of well over a decade, enough for the many end of the day trips she made to the units hauling inventory. She spent many weekends assisting in this endless endeavor as well. She wasn’t afraid of taking charge either, another task I was so glad to be relieved of.

Others volunteered their time when they had it. Ted Reutlinger struggled to account for the Yakima components, Toni Locker patiently labeled and packed as I asked, while Lynea Massee brought the farm truck as well as packing away inventory. Larry VonDeylen and Bob Luoma helped remove both slatwall and the frame hangers, a task involving ladders, which I was reluctant to do.

Bike Displays

The bikes had to be boxed and the display racks taken down and stored.

Ski rentals

In the small shop we stored thing where we could. Here are some rental skis.

Brad Studt made more than one trip with a truckload of paper to recycle. Tom Stuck, who’d recently injured his back, came in and helped with the labeling and identifying of inventory as it was packed. Chuck Burleigh waded thru the accumulated debris, which I managed to fall twice in, to assist in carting stuff out. Carolyn Foland not only brought more boxes, but helped fill them with the many packages of handlebar wrap. Tom Johnson brought a big roll of tire bags that saved the day for bagging wheelsets. Gary Schmid not only assisted in packing things to the units, but also provide the use of his van for transporting my personal bikes to a friend’s attic!

Packing and sorting

Wheels, tires and rims, Oh My!

Somewhere in the midst of this chaos, Nate elected to pay off his ice cream bet. Back when carbon fiber bikes began to make an appearance, I decided at the trade show I needed to have some in the shop. We placed the minimum frame order, one of them being the first order of a Calfee Dragonfly Pro, upon seeing the prototype at the show. I’d test ridden a Calfee around the streets of Vegas, and while it didn’t have the thrill of my Mondonico, it did absorb the irregularities in the pavement. Then the Desert Storm in Kuwait arose, and the tubes necessary to build a frame of my size were designated for landing gear for planes in the Air Force. It took an additional three years before I received the frameset. By then I’d been riding my 20th Anniversario Torelli made of Columbus Foco, and I couldn’t wait to ride it each time. I’d been ordering parts for the Calfee before it arrived, nothing but weight was a consideration. Expensive, but I only saw weight as the goal. Despite the beautiful paint jobs that were available, I ordered the frame as raw, shaving a quarter pound off the frame. It stood in the display window for 10 years, while I didn’t see the reason for completing it, I was so pleased with the ride of Columbus Foco. All it needed was the Connex titanium chain to be installed, the Kevlar shifter cables attached, and the handlebars to be wrapped. Sometime after recouping from chemo, Nate bet me 15 pints of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream that I wouldn’t ride that bike before January of 2018. This was months before my toppling over on Skyline and injuring my knee. I did manage to finish and ride the Dragonfly before January, but I wanted to hold off on the ice cream for a hot summer day. I didn’t know the shop wouldn’t exist on the next hot summer day, and Nate surprised us all with the ice cream before leaving at the end of May.

Ice cream bet

Nate pays off the ice cream bet.

After Nate left, I relied on volunteers for the next three weeks to complete the evacuation of the building. We did a monstrous cleanup of the interior, areas that hadn’t been swept in decades. The landlord issued an ultimatum, a deadline for being out of the building, from his board of directors, and I managed to get three more days out of it. It was difficult to prioritize—there were things that I knew to be of no monetary value, but I had an emotional attachment to. The huge Campagnolo script decal in the window would be a slow process removing, and the time would be better spent cleaning to reduce the fee that would otherwise be levied against the deposit we’d placed 25 years ago. Posters in the bathrooms and hallway would take time to dislodge and roll up.

Posters and ads

Posters and ads in the bathroom

Posters and ads

Wait. there's more.

There was still a large accumulation of trashcans out front and stuff no one had elected to take. Again, the priority was to conserve money, so the aesthetic concerns were pushed aside.

I was allowed to enter the building a final time, but it was too late, the posters had been scrapped by the man hired to clean the premises. I did manage to save the Campagnolo decal to a sheet of Plexiglass, however!

And then began the organization of the storage units. I’d been forced to rent a couple more, reasoning that it was temporary, as my personal belongings from my house wouldn’t take much space, but I’d need space to play musical storage units in the process of organizing.