You could say Jay Erickson's been in the bike business a little while.
“Oh, just 45 years,” the owner of Lyn-Lake's Alternative Bike and Board Shop chuckles.
The Alt opened on 24th and Hennepin in 1974; Erickson started selling skateboards in '76 followed by snowboards in '79. “We were the first skate shop in Minneapolis, one of the first snowboard shops in Minneapolis... lotta history," he recalls. He and his staff have been helping folks buy, customize, and repair all three at their 3013 Lyndale Ave. S. location for the last 13 years.
After all those decades in the industry, Erickson is ready to sell the shop's building and get out. The Alt's problems are those that plague many brick-and-mortar retailers in 2019: Business just ain't what it used to be.
"The bike industry’s just going down the tubes these days; I’ve never experienced anything like it," Erickson says. Most of the brands he stocks sell their stuff online. More and more cyclists come in with parts they purchased online, pay for labor, and go on their merry way.
In bike-industry-specific problems, the past few winters have been brutal, weather-wise, and therefore sales-wise, followed by a rainier than usual spring and summer. (Did you know we're having the second-wettest year on record?) "And I think these Nice Rides—I didn’t think they were going to take a toll, but I think they have," he says.
Plus: “I’m getting too old, I think maybe is the main thing.”
As recently as March, the intersection at Lake and Lyndale supported two bike shops: Penn Cycle's 710 W. Lake St. location closed when the struggling chain sold to Freewheel earlier this year.
But it might not be the end end for convenient flat fixes in Lyn-Lake. A few of the folks who have expressed interest in the building have considered subletting some square footage back to the Alt, which might then operate seasonally out of a smaller footprint. If that doesn't work out, Erickson is still hoping to find another seasonal spot in the neighborhood. (There's also Erik's and Perennial Cycle nearby.)
“I mostly want to really keep a positive attitude about it. My staff really wants to keep the store going,” Erickson adds. “Regroup, I guess, is the proper term.”