Shawn and Anna Maria Wolf, owners of two bike shops in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have remained open throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that forced a city-wide shut down. Bicycle shops are an essential business三九电影网, but some bike shops in New York City have decided to close their doors.
Their shops— and —are situated in the center of the pandemic. Seeing the need to stay open, they’ve readjusted their hours to accommodate cyclists, messengers, nurses, and locals who must commute. “Everyone is working incredibly hard,” says Wolf, “and the staff that have stayed on are really brave. We look after each other; we are family.”
In a conversation with Bicycling, Shawn Wolf talked about what types of customers they are serving right now, what it’s like to be in the center of this pandemic in NYC, and how everyone can help our essential workers right now.
Bicycling: How are you serving customers at this time and how are you handling staff?
Shawn Wolf:三九电影网 My wife and I keep working, but she’s in quarantine with our new baby handling bookkeeping and applying for SBA loans and federal rescue funds. I’m in the shop wrenching 7 days a week. A lot of our staff decided that work wasn’t worth the risk, had to self-quarantine, or were immunocompromised themselves. We completely respect their decisions. Everyone has to make the best choice for themselves during this difficult time.
All our staff wears gloves. When our suppliers ran out of masks, we started sewing them out of shop T-shirts. We have tons of cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place, but we are still able to handle test rides and service. It’s just a little more slow going.
What are some of the main things customers need from you right now?
Customers need regular spring tune-ups, but social distancing means we aren’t able to do the volume of service we normally do this time of year. Folks riding right now are realizing what the basic necessities are. Everyone should have a floor pump and flat repair kit.
Beyond races getting canceled, lots of our customers are wisely avoiding doing anything that could cause injuries and create a bigger burden on our overwhelmed hospitals. Our regular commuters are now fitness riders, and we are getting a ton of first responders, medical professionals, and essential workers who need to ride in order to avoid the risk presented by public transportation.
We’ve made our rental fleet available for free for healthcare workers who’ve come to NYC from other areas. We’re now doing bike deliveries all over Brooklyn and Manhattan. We’ve also implemented a bit of telemedicine for bikes by diagnosing bike issues over video chat.
How do you think your experience as a bike shop owner/cyclist is different than someone in a different part of the country right now?
三九电影网It’s night and day. We are on the frontlines here. Everyone knows someone who’s sick or has died. They are building overflow morgues on the streets in front of hospitals—it’s horrifying. But we’re New Yorkers, and we’ve got a lot of tenacity. And we know people need us here in a profound way not felt in other parts of the country.
I have endless respect for store owners in areas where bikes aren’t for transportation and people have other ways to access outdoor space, who’ve elected to close their doors until the virus is contained. It was the right choice for them.
What recommendations do you have for cyclists right now?
三九电影网Be safe. On empty street drivers are even more reckless. Have a calm commute, take an easy fitness ride. Save the really hard efforts for the trainer until our hospitals are back at full capacity.
Have a well maintained bike, don’t get stranded by an easily avoided mechanical. Be prepared, have spare tubes, a rescue pump, a multitool. Use the highest security lock available. Bike theft is up everywhere.
What kinds of lasting effects do you think this could have on the bike community?
Most retail won’t recover from the redirect toward internet shopping. We hope that folks see how important bike shops are, but the truth is cities will need to invest in bike shops as part of that critical infrastructure. Bike delivery will change the urban landscape, from Amazon to Whole foods. It’s clear that clean bikes can replace idling, double parked trucks.
What have you seen other small businesses doing to weather the storm?
Brands who reach their customers online now realize how vital the brick and mortar shop is. Bikes are a key to the mobility of goods and people in NYC. Trek has been vital to helping us get our SBA loan applications together. is helping us promote our free rental bikes to healthcare workers. is giving them locks and helmets三九电影网. Finish Line sent us extra cleaning products. There is a profound sense that we are all in it together, totally interconnected.
Do you think there will be a boom in business when people are free to gather again?
We are taking it day by day, sometimes ’cross season seems like an alternate universe compared to what we see here in NYC. But we look forward to the day we can race as a team, not just hang out on Slack. Bikes have always helped people endure the greatest hardships, so regardless of what comes next, we know there will be bikes. And we are here to help.
Has this situation taught you anything new about your business?
You have to be positive and resilient, even when the world is crumbling around you. We constantly have to keep in mind how privileged we are to continue to work and provide a paycheck for our employees.
When you’re able to be home, what’s that like?
三九电影网We are working from sun up to sun down, but each morning we cuddle our little baby in bed while he has his bottle and we have our coffees.
We have some elaborate disinfection routines when we get home—clothes into the hamper, straight to the shower, launder our cloth face masks三九电影网. And then like everyone else, eat frozen pizza or something tasty from the Instant Pot.
Are you still riding through the stay-at-home order?
Yes, it’s how we get to work as essential workers. We’ve actively encouraged our staff to avoid all solo training rides and mountain biking and to use a trainer/rollers for hard efforts. We have staff members who actively bikepack三九电影网 on days off, but their routes are cut back drastically.
What snacks/food/drink are getting you through?
Honestly, our options are really limited at the moment. But we do look forward to the day we can all share a large veggie pizza from Best Pizza, with Cokes and beers三九电影网 and no social distancing. Lots of high fives and big hugs.
How can people help you/one another?
Older folks, immunocompromised, and disabled people live alone and need groceries, meals, and medicines brought to their homes. Give thanks to frontline workers三九电影网. Tip anyone who performs a service for you.
Give a cashier a gift card. Give a box of granola bars to your postal carrier. Hang a banner in your window that celebrates sanitation workers. Give your food delivery person a box of Clorox wipes. Share any type of kindness you can.
It’s with immense gratitude and pride that we work alongside Brooklyn’s finest crew: Miki Marcinkiewicz, Zach Blackburn, Miguel Rojas, Giovanni Jimenez, Chombo, Catherine Harrison, Cheylene Tattersall, Jon Perry, and Richard Pardo. — Shawn & Anna Wolf