Nonprofit bicycle shop eyes potential facility expansion, seeks community input

Luciano Marano
lmarano@ptleader.com
Posted 9/14/20

Timing, it has been said, is everything.

So when the Port Townsend ReCyclery’s plans to proceed with a potential expansion and renovation project ran headlong into COVID-19 — and the …

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Nonprofit bicycle shop eyes potential facility expansion, seeks community input

Posted

Timing, it has been said, is everything.

So when the Port Townsend ReCyclery’s plans to proceed with a potential expansion and renovation project ran headlong into COVID-19 — and the nonprofit bicycle shop had to drastically limit entry and cancel its popular outreach and education programs for the foreseeable future — now suddenly didn’t seem the proper time. 

Then again, maybe it was the perfect time.

The staff and board of directors thought so, and initial responses to the shop’s ongoing public survey reportedly show the community agrees. 

AT FULL CAPACITY

It’s not as if the needs weren’t obvious. 

The ReCyclery does not have running water or sewer services, relying on portable bathrooms and hand-washing stations to stay clean, especially during the pandemic. Much of their facility is both intimate, making distancing impossible, and open to the elements, fine enough right now but quickly becoming all but intolerable in winter — not to mention the pains that must be taken to keep bikes, products and parts out of the rain. One section of the shop is prone to flooding, meaning staff are regularly forced to slog through cold standing water.

It’s not ideal for a full-service repair shop, especially one that relies so heavily on volunteers and is renowned for its educational programs and outreach workshops — all of which they have no space to stage at the best of times and are now being forced to survive without. 

“We try to be as collegial as we can, but what we’re really doing is catering to our customer base and our membership [who] are really people who are interested in learning more about their bikes and being engaged in that way, that self-reliance piece,” said Dave Thielk, president of the nonprofit’s board of directors. “I’m sure the other bike shops have some of that, too, but that’s really what we do.” 

Obviously, they know the problems well enough, but ReCyclery staff are hoping the cyclists of Jefferson County can help in planning the solutions. 

“What we’re looking to do is engage the community and get support behind this endeavor,” said executive director Liz Revord. “We just want to know that we’re on the right path.”

That path is being designed by Kenji Bruce Glenn, founder of The Green Builder NW, a Port Townsend construction outfit specializing in passive solar design and energy-efficient building, and will ultimately likely include adding running water and sewer systems, as well as building classrooms and additional covered storage.

“My speciality is environmental design and so I find clients that really want something that is passive solar, active solar, energy efficient or high-performance buildings,” said Glenn, who is also a cyclist and ReCyclery member. 

“We’re not going to get that,” he explained, “but we need to get them enclosed, get some insulation in here, make it a livable, a workable situation. Right now they suffer.” 

PUBLIC INPUT NEEDED

ReCyclery officials are asking for additional public comment and feedback regarding their growth, services, future fundraising campaign, and programming. Their survey can be found at www.ptrecyclery.org and comments can be emailed directly to Programs@ptrecy
clery.org.

“Eventually we’ll be looking for expertise,” Revord said, “people who might have expertise in fundraising, people who might have gone through a capital campaign before, people who are builders. We have Kenji here but we also need boots on the ground to help put walls up because we have some money but we don’t have all of the money.” 

Of the 1,500 people Revord sent a direct link to the survey, she said about 50 responded almost right away in strong favor of the plan.

“The majority of people think that our services are really vital to the community,” Revord said. “I think just in general the people we talk to when they come into our space understand that we need more resources here.

“We can’t continue to sustain moving at the rate that we are with our current infrastructure.” 

BUSY AS ALL GET-OUT

The ReCyclery boasts between 600 and 800 members, Revord said, and five employees.

“We also are talking about expanding that aspect because we have been so busy,” she said. “That’s something that’s in the back of our mind as well, especially going into winter. We thought we would be prepared for the spring and summer, we had all these bikes built up, and then March hit. We had
39 bikes ready for sale and we sold 36 of them in March. So what was going to be our cache ... it’s already gone. We’ve just been working really hard, trying to get ahead of it and some days are better than others.” 

Staff mechanic Joe Sastic said keeping up with client and customer demands in the current facility is almost impossible and rarely comfortable.

“We literally can’t make the bikes fast enough,” he said. “You can see our space is not covered and you should swing by in the winter sometime when the winds and water are howling, so it’d be very nice to get a little more protection from the elements so we can serve people better.”

That success, and initial public enthusiasm, tells Revord the plan is off on the right foot — COVID or not. 

“Now is the time when we’re actually seeing growth,” she said, “and we need to do something about it.” 

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