PISGAH FOREST, N.C. (BRAIN) — Wes Dickson and staff are taking one for the team.
That team being the small Pisgah Forest community they have served at Sycamore Cycles the past two decades.
This should be a time of brisk business and a year of celebration, what with spring here in the nearby Pisgah National and DuPont State forests and Sycamore celebrating its 20-year anniversary in July.
It’s anything but, with Sycamore Cycles voluntarily closing its two locations indefinitely earlier this week to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and curtail cycling tourism. As of Thursday morning, Transylvania County, where Pisgah Forest is located, had one person test positive for COVID-19. The county has closed schools until at least May 15, limiting gatherings to 50 people, and is considering a shelter in place order.
About 14 states have some kind of state-wide shelter in place that exempts bike shops. Two states and some other jurisdictions have ordered nearly all businesses closed, including bike shops. North Carolina doesn’t have a statewide order yet, but Dickson said it was time to shut down.
“Our hometown hospital isn’t that big. Honestly, if we had an outbreak of this, it would cripple our health services here,” Dickson told BRAIN on Thursday.
Although agreeing bike shops in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York should be considered essential, his shop is not.
“We are a toy store essentially for adults,” Dickson said. “We sell really fun things that you ride on and bring you joy, but it’s also something that attracts people to our town. It’s a global look, but it’s more so a look at my community in general, and we don’t have the capacity to handle this if it (an outbreak) happened here.”
While the long-term financial repercussions remain to be seen for Dickson, it’s more immediate for his staff of 15 employees across two locations, 14 of whom were laid off, part of the record 3.2 million Americans who filed for unemployment.
Sycamore’s other store is located in nearby Hendersonville, located in Henderson County, which has had six positive COVID-19 cases and also is considering a shelter in place mandate.
“The way I manage my store is we have a conversation, and we come together on a decision,” Dickson said. “At the end of the day, I make the final call, but there is a lot of democracy in our conversations. Actually, it was our head mechanic who was the one who said, ‘Look, we are not doing the right thing for our town.’
“It made financial sense for them to go on unemployment versus us struggling along and also promoting people coming here. That was the real big thing we couldn’t get past.”
Sycamore caters to bicycling tourism with a successful rental business of 37 bikes. “We had folks from Raleigh here the past weekend wanting to rent bikes; we have folks from all over Florida here in full force, Orlando is here,” he said. “It’s baffling to me that shelter in place doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody.”
Dickson said he had a drop in sales a couple weeks ago because of the virus, but with the stimulus package being passed by Congress on Wednesday, he’s hopeful Sycamore Cycles can weather the looming storm.
“Our vendors gotta get paid; our landlords, they gotta get paid,” he said. “There are bills I can’t avoid. We’re working with them and getting in front of it instead of behind it. … It’s really hard to have a conversation about a tire or power meter that’s not working when the world is in such a crisis. … Are we going to be the silver bullet? No, we’re not. But everybody’s got to do their part, right?”