DENVER — After 51 years in business, Turin Bicycles will close its doors.
Why it's closing is a mix of things, including the retirement of the shop's owner and pressure for redevelopment in the neighborhood.
“We became tenants in our building and at this point the lease was up and they’re getting ready to tear things down, so it was pretty obvious the time had come," owner Alan Fine said.
But, how do you sum up five decades of memories? For Fine, it's been all about the people.
"I'm just proud of having built a business that so many people appreciated," he said. "For me, retail was always more than just selling things. It was about meeting people, talking to people. That was the real pleasure of it for me."
He said the original Turin Bicycles started out in Chicago, but Fine had the itch to move to Denver in 1971. By November of that year, at just 23 years old, he became the sole proprietor and opened his store on Grant and 7th Avenue.
“I love the old Denver. You know? It was nice. I mean, there’s been benefits to growth always, a boom in cultural activities in Denver. There’s more opportunities for everything, but I miss the old days," he said.
At first, Fine said they started out with 1,000 square feet, but their need for more space grew and grew. Eventually in 1990, they moved to their current location on Lincoln and 7th Avenue.
He had many opportunities to move onto other ventures, but his heart and his work have always stayed right in his bike shop.
“We kind of clawed our way up. Initially, we were just a little neighborhood bike store, but we became involved in the bike racing scene here early on, which was really small back then," he said. “We got involved in that and started to build our reputation, so we became not just that little neighborhood store anymore. We were Turin. We were the place the bike racers went to because we had the parts, the bikes they were looking for that maybe a lot of other bike shops didn’t have.”
But then, the time finally came for Fine to retire.
“It was time for me. I’m 73 years old at this point and after doing it for 50 years I thought it’s time," he said. "I had planned to get out of the business then and sell the business to a couple of my employees, sell the building and basically be done.”
After receiving several offers, Fine said he sold the Turin Bicycles building two years ago to a close friend at St. Charles Town Company, Charlie Woolley.
Woolley said it's likely the building will be demolished and potentially redeveloped as mixed-use, for both retail and residential purposes.
Though it's not certain, there's also potential for two of the shop's long-term employees, Mike Stejskal and Dave Wileden, to continue the Turin Bicycles business in the future.
"Everybody was buying for redevelopment. The neighborhood has changed so dramatically," Fine said. "Over the last 8-10 years, of course, and even more recently, so many of the buildings around there have come down and been redeveloped as large apartment buildings.”
Fine said it's tough to be an independent retailer nowadays, no matter what your business is.
"There's a lot of pressure in the neighborhood, driving rents up, driving small retailers out," he said.
The bike business has also changed a lot over the years. Fine said there's more direct-to-consumer sales now, competition with bigger companies, COVID-19 caused sales to drop and issues with supply chains have made it all more difficult to stay afloat.
Ed Sealover, senior reporter at the Denver Business Journal, said it's been tough for smaller, family-owned businesses in Denver.
“That rising rent, that rising property value is just a symptom of Denver being a place people want to be, and until it isn’t, that’s not going to change," Sealover said. "The businesses that have been in place for a long time are the ones you hate to see leave, but at the same time there are opportunities for those businesses elsewhere."
He said those opportunities for businesses are away from the city center, in less expensive areas like in the Overland and Montbello neighborhoods.
"There could be options out there, though that's certainly not what most businesses want to be looking at," Sealover said. “Maybe some of these businesses will be reborn as online marketplaces and we see a lot of startup businesses that are going that direction already.”
But for Fine and his many customers and employees, the memories will always remain.
“I enjoyed every one of you. I enjoyed meeting you, talking to you. I appreciate your business over the years. I appreciate your friendship," Fine said. "It goes way beyond business. So many of my customers became friends, really friends, and it means a lot to me.”
Turin Bicycles is currently having a liquidation sale to sell off their remaining stock. The shop will close at the end of the month.
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