Bike Store To Close At Season’s End

first_imgBy John BurtonFAIR HAVEN – It’s been a good life these last 17 years for Bike Haven owner Cliff Wittenberg. But now faced with a prohibitive rent increase and sagging sales in the last few years, Wittenberg has decided to call it quits, closing his shop in decidedly bike-centric Fair Haven at the end of the month.“It just doesn’t make sense to continue,” Wittenberg acknowledged.Bike Haven, 588 River Road, is located in the same shopping center as Laird Stationery (also earmarked for closing), the United States Postal Service’s post office, Acme supermarket and other small retail businesses. With his lease to expire at the end of the month, Wittenberg said the property owner has sought first to double the existing rent for the approximately 2,650-square-foot space to about $7,000 a month, but giving Wittenberg the three-to five-year lease Wittenberg had initially hoped for. Wittenberg, at 62 now, he figured after a few more years of running the shop he would retire. But at that price, given the decline in business since the 2008 Great Recession, that rent wasn’t an option, he said.The landlord countered, offering an 18-month extension with a 5 percent rent hike. Wittenberg, however, after looking at the receipts and discussing it with his accountant, has decided to walk away from a business he’s loved for these past 17 years.The shopping center is owned and managed by Metro Commercial Real Estate, real estate brokers with offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Mount Laurel.The firm has in the past declined to comment on its plans for the River Road shopping center and a phone call and email to the marketing department at the Mount Laurel offices last week did not elicit a response.But some with knowledge of the firm’s strategy but who in the past asked not be identified said Metro Commercial plans to eventually renovate the location with aims of making it a more upscale dining and shopping destination.Cliff Wittenberg owner and operator of Bike Haven in Fair Haven.For Bike Haven’s first approximately nine years, business was solid, with the shop seeming to cater to some area serious cyclists, those looking to get serious and others simply with serious money to spend, wanting their bikes customized, with some of them going for as much as $6,000-$7,000. In addition, his location was of special attraction to Fair Haven families, especially with school-age kids who took advantage of a competitively priced line of children’s bikes – and the fact that he offers service including a 60-day tune-up remains popular, as well as the riders’ ability to stop by to get air in their tires.Despite the strong showing in the earlier years, “The last eight sucked,” he confided. From 2008 to 2009 his receipts dropped about 40 percent and since have remained pretty much flat, as he continues to face increased competition from big box stores and other outlets, he said. “I’m not the only place that sells bikes.”“We’re basically working to keep the place open,” Wittenberg acknowledged. “When you’re doing that it takes the wind out of your sails.”Wittenberg had previously worked in sales for cars, copiers, real estate and insurance over the years. He’d gotten back into cycling for the exercise and he determined, “I like sales, I like bikes and I thought I could do a good job at it.”Over the years, as his kids were growing, Wittenberg was able to ride his bike to work and had gotten to know many in the community. In the very bike-centric Fair Haven (just go by the borough schools when in session and see the many, many bikes cramming the racks outside of the buildings, or on weekends when whole families take to the roadways on their two wheelers), Wittenberg said he became a source of information for families looking to buy bikes for their children. With the closing, “people are upset about it,” as they come by to wish him well and maybe take advantage of the reduced, clearance prices, he said.“It’s been really fun. It’s been great.“If the landlord had been reasonable I would have stayed,” despite the other obstacles, he said. He had considered relocating but really didn’t find a location he could afford that suited his needs. So, now he’s looking for a new job and closing out his business.last_img

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