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Bike Shops See Business Boom in Wake of Hurricane Sandy

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 2, 2012 4:52pm

NEW YORK — With many straphangers stranded because of Hurricane Sandy-prompted subway shutdowns, bike shops across the city are reporting a staggering upswing in sales, with some reporting a 500 percent increase in revenue.

At Landmark Vintage Bicycles' Williamsburg location, on 376 Bedford Avenue, commuters weary of slow-moving and over-stuffed buses have turned to two-wheeled transportation in unprecedented numbers.

George, a 29-year-old bike mechanic who declined to give his last name, said that Landmark "did roughly five times the business" than midweek during the summer — peak season for cycle sales.

"I's been the best day that we've ever been open ever,"  said George, further explaining that the company has operated since 2008. "It's probably going to be the same way  until the subways are back on."

In addition, George said, the shop has sold out of lights, and mechanics are slammed as owners of old bikes are stopping by for last-ditch repairs to get them across the bridge.

George said that one of the biggest suppliers of area bike shops is in New Jersey and is not able to keep up with demand because of Hurricane Sandy.

Though they are not shipping parts, other distributors across the U.S. have stepped in to meet increased demand, he said.

Ilyes Bodin, 25, manages Propect Height's Brooklyn's Bike and Board, reported a similar situation.

He's noted a 120 percent increase, also echoing that Bike and Board was "busier than summer."

"It's insane," said Bodin. "I have had to call everbody [in to work] because I have too many customers." 

Usually, the store sells approximately two bikes daily.

Since Hurricane Sandy, Bike and Board — located on 560 Vanderbilt Avenue — has sold between six and 7, he said.

Cyclists have also come in for tune ups and lights, he said.

The story is similar in Queens.

In Long Island City, Queens residents who needed to move around also turned to bikes.

Carlos Carbinell, an employee at L.I.C. Bicycles — located near the entrance of the Queensboro Bridge — said that bikes in the $300-500 price range were sellling particularly well.

“Anything with wheels went out the door,” he said.

Also, Carbinell said, skakeboards and adult scooters have proved popular, as well as helmets, locks, and lights.

Some 30 of the store's rental bikes had been leased.

Though business was brisk at L.I.C., Carbinell explained that it was largely making up for the two days the store was shuttered because of Hurricane Sandy.

Downtown-bound Manhattanites have also bolstered sales at City Bicycles said Johnathan Moloon, who operates the business.

Though City Bicyles, on 315 West 38th Street, was closed Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday have been the busiest days of 2012, Moloon said.

In the summer, Moloon said, City Bicycles might sell three or four bikes. 

Now, he's moving 10 bikes along with accessories such as locks, lights, and helmets and mechanical servies. 

"They need to get places. They have to go to work. They have to move around," he said. "Or, they need something to do because they can't go to work and cant get something to do."

Some bike shops are open even in Manhattan's electricity-free neighborhoods.

Manhattan Velo, located on East 17th Street, is running off a generator.

Trade publication Bicycle Retailer and Industry News reports that several such shops in New York are doing repairs and some sales despite a lack of power.

Among them: NYC Velo's East Village location at 64 Second Avenue and the Toga! chain's Gotham shop, on 112 West Broadway.

Because of the influx of bike commuters, Transportation Alternatives organized help stations at the entrances of the Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Queensboro bridges and at 26th Street and Sixth Avenue on Thursday and Friday.

The advocacy agency, along with the Times Square Alliance, has set up a place for commuters in Midtown to safely valet park their bikes in Times Square slightly north of 47th Street.