Flanders Bicycle shop closes in San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo has lost another bike shop.
Flanders Bicycle, located at 1951 Santa Barbara Ave., Suite D, near the train station, shut its doors on July 31 after eight years in business.
Flanders Bicycle owner Shawn Hafley said he was having to funnel income into the shop from a second, full-time job to make ends meet.
He said financial strains prevented Flanders Bicycle from being able to provide the quality he hoped for customers and to pay workers what they deserved.
“I have loved everything about this business, especially the service aspect,” Hafley said. “I worked at Boo Boo Records as the manager for over a decade and my mentor there taught me ‘it’s really easy to take care of people and it’s hard to be a jerk.’ That always stuck with me.”
Flanders Bicycle operated as a full-service bike shop with mechanics on hand to provide repairs and build custom bikes and wheels. The store also had a variety of bicycles for sale in a 750-square-foot space that was a converted auto mechanic’s space.
Hafley said the space was designed to encourage customers to spend time and chat without feeling pressured to buy something immediately.
“The idea was to make people feel welcome to just come and talk cycling and hang out,” Hafley said.
Flanders Bicycle’s name was inspired by an annual bicycle race in Flanders, Belgium. Hafley said people also liked to buy the store’s T-shirts because it reminded them of the character Ned Flanders from TV’s “The Simpsons.”
Hafley said the shop experienced a slowdown of customer sales due to online competition, but saw somewhat of a resurgence in recent years with e-commerce shoppers returning.
“We always had a core group of customers who were going to stay loyal to us no matter what, even if they had to pay $15 more,” Hafley said. “But customers who would order parts online and then find them difficult to assemble would come in and have us do it. People then started to bypass the online market and by directly through us for that reason, and that was pretty cool to see.”
In the end, he said, the cost-versus-revenue numbers didn’t add up.
Hafley, a San Luis Obispo County native, hired by the city of San Luis Obispo as a maintenance worker.
He used some of income from that job to supplement his business, leaving much of the day-to-day duties to staff members Sandy Bohn, a service manager, and Adam Jacinto, a mechanic. Hafley called both men “excellent” employees who are moving on to work at other local bicycle shops.
Hafley said Flanders Bicycle didn’t have a blowout sale, but the business announced its closure to its social media followers.
The shop’s former home at Santa Barbara Avenue is now empty, and Hafley said he’s not sure who might move in next or what could happen to the property.
“It’s a bit of a funky spot, but we’ll see what the future holds,” Hafley said. “I’ll miss the community and the employees. They were great.”