New bike shops: evidence of strong growth in cycling?
It's hard to keep track of all the new bike shops over the last year or two. Can the Toronto market sustain them all? Is it a sign of a booming bike market? Last year saw:
- Sweet Pete's B-side as the original Bloor West shop opened a second in the Annex (517 Bloor West), a more "traditional" North American bike shop.
- Mountain Equipment Co-op started selling their own bike brand, designed, it seems, mostly for the West Coast market.
- Bike House, a tiny Latino bike shop that exists on low rent costs at Augusta and Dundas to fill a niche on the lower end.
- Liberty Street Cyclery, a bike shop accessible for the quickly growing "island" but takes some work to find hidden just south of the Liberty Noodle.
- the ramshackle but very useful Parts Unknown gets closed by the landlord of the Kensington back alley but George rebounds as the Epicyclic just off Queen and Denison.
And this year:
- Bikes On Wheels in Kensington Market just opened a new location on Queen St West (779 Queen W), with their same range of city, fixies, road and cargo.
- Cycle Couture is going Danish chic when it opens on April 1st on College near Ossington (926 College Street), importing the Velorbis, HERSKIND+HERSKIND (clean, simple bikes but no chain guards) with Swobo coming from California so as not to get too Danish.
- Ride Away Bikes on Dundas west of Bathurst caters to the crowds with more straightforward needs and lesser means. It's good to have a few unpretentious shops in the neighbourhood.
That's quite a few bike stores in a short period. How many can Toronto handle with current cycling levels? As the common wisdom goes, most small businesses fail, but Toronto has had a few strong years of cycling growth. These new bike stores are either a reaction to this strong growth or are in anticipation of more. Most are in it because they love bikes and are hoping that the money will match their passion. Any way it happens, I wish them all the best.
Now that the West End seems to be getting saturated - for the time being, perhaps any new entrepreneurs could focus east of the Don Valley. There still seems to be a bit of a hole in Leslieville where cycling rates are almost as high but has only seen one shop open in the last year: the volunteer-driven BikeSauce on 717 Queen East). I'm sure there's room for more.