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Santa Barbara’s Wheelhouse to close

Published January 25, 2012

SANTA BARBARA, CA (BRAIN) Jan 25, 08:37 MT—After three years in business, “urban mobility” specialty retailer Wheelhouse Bikes is closing Jan. 31.

Erik Wright, who co-owns the shop with partner Evan Minogue, said several factors prompted the closure, including the sale of Wheelhouse’s building to a new owner, prompting a rent increase, and the high cost of living in Santa Barbara.

The 3,200-square-foot shop opened in early 2009 and specialized in transportation bikes from such brands as Surly, Civia, Electra, Linus and Workcycles. But Wheelhouse distinguished itself in the Santa Barbara market with its selection of electric bikes, Wright noted.

While several local shops order e-bikes for customers, Wheelhouse has had a dedicated space on the sales floor for models from E-Moto, Hebb and Kalkhoff. It also carried BionX electric assist systems.

Wheelhouse is liquidating its stock via an “Apocalypse Sale,” and Wright says more than 80 percent of inventory has moved out the door.

Once the shop winds down, Minogue plans to take time off for travel, while Wright will look for work in Santa Barbara’s tech sector. But Wright, who serves as secretary of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, also plans to stay deeply involved in the local cycling community. “I’m going to stick around Santa Barbara and help with the local bike scene as an individual as opposed to as a shop,” he said.

Wright noted that California’s Central Coast region lacks an all-inclusive website for bicycle news, and he hopes to remake Wheelhouse’s website into a hub for the cycling community.

“I think there’s a lot more people here taking to daily cycling,” he said of Santa Barbara. “It’s always been a place for really good road biking and, in many people’s eyes, some world-class mountain biking as well. But as far as what we were focusing on, there’s definitely been an uptick in folks using their bike as a daily means of transportation. It’s a perfect spot to do it. It’s pretty small. We have 75-degree winters. It’s a pretty good recipe to be a solid bicycle town overall.”

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