AZUSA, Calif. – Prior to COVID-19, Carlos Morales said he and many other bike shops were facing an uphill climb.
"It was hard to see a lot of my friends in the industry closing down their shops," said Morales, who owns Stan's Bike Shop in Azusa.
He was a one-man operation when all of a sudden he "felt like somebody threw on a light switch.”
“Our phones were ringing off the hook. People were coming in bringing their bikes in for repair. Then, they started buying bikes,” said Morales.
He quickly hired another four employees. In fact, Morales feels COVID-19 saved his business.
"We’ve sold more bikes in three months than I’ve sold in the past four years," Morales said.
He said even industry veterans who have been around for decades said they’ve never experienced anything like this.
"All of a sudden my inventory was running out," he said.
Morales has had to rely on the key relationships he’s built with manufacturers and distributors to meet demand.
"I had to change my schedule to take an extended lunch during the week. During that time frame, I would go to my distributors and pick up parts," he said. "Other bike shops, they’re running out of tubes. They’re running out of chains. So, we’re a very small shop, but we’re very well stocked."
Being well stocked has helped him attract new customers from all across Southern California.
"They’ve been coming from Ventura, Santa Clarita, San Diego, Pacific Palisades," Morales said.
He has even noticed lines stretching down the street past the pizza shop next door. Bike shops are considered essential businesses since for some, it’s their only means of personal transportation.
"A lot of people don’t want to be on the bus. They don’t want to be on the trains, so they still ride their bikes. So, people started purchasing bikes to actually commute to work," Morales said.
His store bike racks are typically filled with new bikes for sale but now it's mostly repairs. Morales said a lot of people had their bikes sitting in the garage and now they want to start riding them, but they're realizing it's not safe.
Whether outdoor exercise, transportation, or simply youthful nostalgia, Morales is helping many rediscover a popular past time.
And for now, he’s enjoying the ride.