SAN FRANCISCO (BRAIN) — Of the many reasons shop owners decide to sell their businesses, seismic retrofit is not usually one of them. In San Francisco, Bradley Woehl is facing just that situation. He’s been forced to close the venerable American Cyclery in January and February to shore up its 120-year old building at the corner of Frederick and Stanyan Streets.
“They’re putting pillars and I-beams right through the middle of the showroom,” Woehl said. “I can live through it, close the shop, disassemble and put it back together, and the disruption goes far beyond that.”
Woehl has lost three “great” mechanics due to the closing. “It’s for sure not what they signed up for,” he said. “The loss of staff is as disruptive to a small business as it could be. If the shop burned down, I’d be insured, but there’s no coverage for something like this.”
American Cyclery was founded by Oscar Juner in 1941. Woehl is the third owner and bought the shop in 1996. At its peak, American had two stores and grossed $2.2 million. Last year, single-store sales were “just under $900,000,” according to Woehl.
“I just decided it’s the right time to sell after 25 years of owning it,” Woehl said. “We all know there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for bike shop owners. I’ve had my fun and it doesn’t seem like there’s much more upside for me.”
Woehl is putting the business up for sale through press releases, on Craigslist, and he’s doing interviews with TV stations and newspapers. “It’s the oldest shop in San Francisco with real cash flow,” Woehl said. “It would take 10 to 20 years to build something like this. We know there are buyers out there who will see the value and the opportunity.”
At age 51, Woehl is a long way from retiring. He’s had several industry roles outside the shop, doing consulting for brands like Soma, Public, Raleigh and Diamondback. “I have other bike industry consulting opportunities as well as some great possibilities outside the cycling world,” he said.
“This being said, I have a new bike shop concept in mind on the coast where I live in Pacifica,” Woehl concluded. “I have a dream of a different type of bike business beyond traditional retail. If I can successfully divest from American Cyclery and take a well-deserved break, I will be back.”