Portland, Oregon has roughly 80 bike shops within a 15-mile radius of the city’s center, according to Park Chambers, the owner of 21st Avenue Bicycles. Because of the heavy competition, shops have to work hard to set themselves apart. To set his shop apart, Chambers decided to green light the ‘creative types’ running it to make some movies.
Those movies are what threw this bike shop website and blog into the spotlight of our Website of the Week column. Do yourself a favor, take a minute (or three) and watch this:
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Yeah, we know, pretty awesome. While the videos are obviously promotional, they're high in entertainment value and give a good insight to the inner workings of the shop. They’re using a flex hone and torque wrench — the right tools for the job — as any good shop should, and we can only wish that our shop bench was as organized as theirs.
The movies are just the hook for this website and make it a good reason to visit in the first place, but the blog, which is about a year old, provides good reason to stay. It provides a digital forum for what we imagine these guys chat about all day while wrenching on bikes or chatting to customers.
Topics range from YouTube videos of crazy base jumpers in wing suits to shop cameos — by industry folks like Slate Olsen of Rapha North America and favorite eclectic customers, like Allen — to the latest and greatest products to hit the shop floor, ranging from Stanley flasks to Fi’zi:k’s new shoes. All together, if you’ve never visited before, it’s a pretty good way to burn an hour or two; along with the wing suit crazies, be sure to check out the Group B rally and all of the shop-made movies.
The ‘creative types’ that Chambers gave the green light include Kyle von Hoetzendorff, Amanda Sundvor and Sean Light. Kyle manages the shop, while Sundvor, one of the mechanics, is the dominant voice of the shop blog and also maintains her own blog, Backyard Blam. Light, well — he’s in a lot of the creative content…
The 21st Avenue Bicycles crew: Version:(from left) Kato (dog) Park, Amanda, Sean, Nick (now at Beloved Bicycles), Atlin, Kyle (seated)
Chambers bought the shop — actually the building; the previous shop, Northwest Bikes, which opened in the ’70s came free — four years ago to allow his other shop, The Fat Tire Farm, to specialize solely in mountain bikes. The 21st Avenue Bicycles location deals in road and commuter bikes.
Von Hoetzendorff has run the shop since Chambers rebranded it and because of the saturated market, has worked hard to make his customers feel welcome and entertained when they visit. Recently, the shop instated a punch card benefit — where customers give high fives, perform feats of strength and star in videos in return for punches on their card with the promise of a ‘sweet prize’ — which will inevitably provide more entertaining fodder for the blog and videos.
The videos came together by chance. They’re filmed and edited by James Wilson, a customer of the shop, cyclo-cross enthusiast (’cross is big in Portland and the shop) and cameraman from the TLC series Little People, Big World. “The idea is to put out one [video] a month,” said von Hoetzendorff. “We have plans to do at least three more before summer hits. The videos are a way for us to distinguish our shop among the many shops in Portland.
"The thrust for all of our marketing is to try to develop a character niche so that people can connect with the store on a level that’s not equipment based, it helps separate us from shops that are a little bit more corporate. We want to be the local bike shop. It’s about the feeling I had when I was 12 and started as a grom in a shop — it’s about conveying that using the media that’s available now and wasn’t 10 years ago.”
The staff has been coming in off hours to film the videos, while von Hoetzendorff gives full credit of the quality of the videos to Wilson. “We’d been kicking around ideas of doing videos for a long time,” he said. “We had a little point-and-shoot and posted some un-edited shop stunts or whatever… I'd wanted to do some commercials in the style of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, insane sketch comedy, and this guy James just came in [to the shop], we talked and I asked if he wanted to help us make some films. He jumped on the idea. It’s not even the next level — it’s like four levels up in terms of professionalism.”
The shop’s slogan is ‘dedicated to making it awesome’, which two of the employees, Sundvor and Light, have tattooed on their bodies. We think the videos are pretty awesome and plan to stop into the shop the next time we’re in Portland. If you make it there, make sure to flash this ‘21st Ave gang sign’ for five percent off your purchase.
BikeRadar readers: If you visit – or own – a cycling website that you feel is worthy of mention in BikeRadar’s website of the week, email a link to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it in the comments section below and we'll follow up with them for a possible profile in our latest column.