As we get ready to celebrate River City Bicycles’ 20th Anniversary, I am reminded about how well we fit in with Portland, and vice-versa. Even though it was pretty much dumb luck that made me pick PDX to open RCB, it is hard to imagine it anywhere else, and it seems hard to imagine Portland without us.
A bit of history- back in the 1980’s and ‘90’s I was a junior partner in a chain of bike stores in the San Francisco area. But all I could think about was opening up the dream bike shop that I had been thinking about for many years. However, the thought of doing it in Portland was pretty unnerving- I had heard that all it does is rain up here. Even after having been born and raised in Michigan, I just didn’t know what to expect, how bad it could get.
But I figured that if I did it the right way, the city would understand and embrace the kind of store I had in mind. But it would have to be something that was very different than what most people were doing in the bike industry at that time. I wanted to do a large single store, as opposed to what most bike retailers were doing, which were smaller multi-store chains.
I also wanted to build all my own fixtures for a few reasons. The first is because I thought I could do it better than what was available- pretty cheeky, huh? But I also figured I could do them all for much less money than I would have to spend for the production stuff that I didn’t like anyway. And I liked the idea of doing something that most people wouldn’t consider doing themselves. After all, I had been doing woodworking for a few years at that time- how hard could it be?
Well, it was pretty hard. It was also a huge risk- sinking literally all my life savings into River City. But it also seemed as much of a ‘sure thing’ as I could come up with, and if nothing else, I would know for sure whether or not this ‘dream bike shop’ would work or not, and that was well worth the risk!
Fast forward twenty years- River City has been named to the ‘Top 100 Bike Stores’ list every year we have been in existence, even after the first ten months. We were named ‘Most Female Friendly’ store in 2008, and ‘Top Retailer’ in 2010. We have been soundly accepted by the community, and enjoy giving back in as many ways as we can. I love chatting with other cyclists when I’m riding, and so many people have such positive impressions of who we are and what we do.
So thank you, Portland, from the bottom of my heart. Thanks for appreciating who we are and what we do. It seems to me that there is a lot of ‘us’ in Portland, and there is a lot of Portland in River City.