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In wake of Bike Port closing, new owner moves shop to Nord Alley

From Ben Rainbow

A few months ago, we reported that the Bicycle Alliance’s Bike Port and the JRA bike shop location connected to it were closing their doors. But do not fear, the bike shop part is now under new ownership and is moving to Nord Alley and renaming the shop Back Alley Bike Repair. The shop could open as soon as Valentine’s Day.

“It’s not a new shop, we’re just moving and rebranding,” said new owner Ben Rainbow. JRA’s Greenwood location will remain under the same ownership. Rainbow said the shop will specialize in same-day tune-ups for commuters, like JRA did. They will also have some commuter gear and do custom builds. They are also considering having rental bikes and some new bikes for sale.

Beyond that, they also looking for advice from you all. What would you like to see in a Pioneer Square bike shop?


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“I would love to hear people’s cool bike shop experiences,” said Rainbow. Let them know in the comments below.

More on the Bike Port closing, from the Bicycle Alliance:

After serving the Seattle bicycle community for eight years, Bike Port will close its doors at the end of December.  The facility first opened its doors in Pioneer Square in May 2003 and provided 24/7 secure bike parking and an in-house bicycle repair shop.  The Bicycle Alliance has managed the Bike Port facility since 2005 through a partnership with King County Metro, the City of Seattle, and Sound Transit.

As buildings in the downtown area created their own bike parking, the need for Bike Port services has declined.  Bike Port will be missed by those individuals who still need secure bike parking in the Pioneer Square area and we hope that on-demand bike lockers will be available in the future.


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14 responses to “In wake of Bike Port closing, new owner moves shop to Nord Alley”

  1. Gary

    Re Rental Bikes: There is one other place downtown for renting bicycles across from the Ferry dock. So there should be enough business for two places to do it. They also specialize in same day commuter repairs with an emphasis on catching ferry commuters. Since the Pioneer Sq area shop used to do the same, you should be able to keep that business.

    If you decide to sell bicycles, Putting together “commuter” bicycles might work, But I’m not sure of the market. A used frame & fork, new wheels, disk brakes, internal hub shifter (5 or 7 speed), fenders, rack, basic lights, as a “ride-a-way” package. But be careful here as too much inventory can cost you the business. Or focus on women’s bikes. I don’t know what other shop does that. Still though women may not want to go into an alley in Pioneer Sq.

    1. Gary

      Oh yeah, a spring seat as well. And possibly “Dinotte Lights” the best available lights out there.

  2. Tom

    I appreciate when bike mechanics explain the problem and how to fix it to me, without giving me the “just let me do my job” look. Friendly and informative employees keep my business and encourage referrals.

  3. Thanks for the mention Seattle Bike Blog!

    I’ve mentioned to many folks the unfortunate nature of the Bike Port closure and how it’s hard to see the City turn it’s back on a central bike parking facility (for now, at least). As some may know, my opinion was that the financial model of Bike Port grew outdated. The way it was marketed was a bit stale and it’s potential was increasingly untapped. Towards it’s end, the returning of lost and found Metro bikes was it’s silver lining. But in a sense, it’s closure can play a part in ushering in a re-tooled model of how the city of Seattle can facilitate safe bike parking. Many know that since the Bike Port’s inception, it has lasted many Pioneer Square upgrades. Nearly 10 years is a long time to persevere in what many have regarded as a marginal part of downtown. In that time, it has performed as a beacon for what a safe, well-lit, 24-hour access facility can mean to Pioneer Square. Property managers, employers and businesses in the area have jumped on board and are now offering parking within their own buildings. Have your commuter friends at Sound Transit take you through their “parking garage” during a spring/summer/fall day and you can’t help but smile at the sheer number of bikes under one roof. Despite the closure of Bike Port, bike commuting in Pioneer Square is but one indicator of the vitality in the neighborhood.

    Yeah, I’m taking over the reins of JRA Pioneer Square and Julian and I are moving into the rad-ness that is Nord Alley. I accept that creating an appealing alley destination for women is but an initial challenge that I will use to measure our success. I’ve had nothing short of a blast working with previous owner, Eric Berg, over the past year and a half. I think it’s safe to say our customers have had some fun too. That’s not likely to change at Back Alley Bike Repair. See you soon!

    1. Gary

      Hey Ben! I’ll be updating our internal company listing of bicycle repair shops to have your place.

      As for safe for women, find a woman cyclist, girlfriend, buddy’s girlfriend and have her walk the alley and tell you what makes it feel safe vs not.

      One good thing about having some rental bikes out front is that it will indicate to tourists that you are there. You may have trouble with garbage trucks rumbling through the alley. I don’t know when they do pickup, but the alley is pretty narrow.

      You may also want to invest in a power washer to “wash down the street and in front of your door” every morning. Bum piss is a great customer deterent, and you’ll want to mimimize that. Also you may want to hang flower planters up high in the spring like they do in the rest of Pioneer Sq. Not that you are selling plants but the civilizing effect on the eye will also let people know that someone cares about this space. I don’t know who does this in the rest of the area, maybe their is a business community that does it? If you haven’t joined them, you’ll want to.

      Good luck and Happy New Year!

      1. Gary

        Oh one other idea, make a custom bike rack to put out at the alley entrances that says “bike repairs ->” Free advertising and good for bicyclists.

  4. Right on, Gary!

    Lots of what you mention is already in place, or getting in place.

    One thing I’ve been doing on a regular basis to get a gauge of the natural inclinations of the alley, is candidly rolling through at various times of the day/night, ringing my brass bell, hanging out for bit, observing. It’s a rad alley with a unique vision, that’s one reason I’m super pumped up about this. Hoping to get things up and running by Valentine’s Day and for sure for the Chilly Hilly.

    I couldn’t agree more with the idea of a custom bike “corral”. I’m wanting to work with local welders and/or artists to create something durable and unique. I think the perception of safety will be easy to address during our business hours, and the thinking is that as business is established, I’ll be able to spread the footprint out into the alley more.

    I have some pals who run an amazing shop in Mpls with an alley orientation. It functions as an easily accessible spot for gathering, quick out-of-the-way fixes, socializing, etc. I believe there is a great opportunity to interact with the First Thursday Artwalk and add a cycling element. Already been talk about some Tour de France events taking place in the alley. I like to use the word “incubate” with regard for hosting locally produced products/bikes/designs. I think there’s plenty of bike shops in the area to serve the cycling population, I want to add another dimension that satisfies an urban cycling culture, without being condescending, like Tom says above. Books, poster art, possibly nutrition, etc…

    Your feedback is appreciated!

    1. Gary

      I think this artist is local, like Georgetown

      http://www.etsy.com/shop/steeltoestudios?ref=seller_info

      And makes these cool belt buckles out of used cogs.

      On Bike clothing, there is Hub and Bespoke over in Fremont, but that is not convenient for a lot of us. You might want to look into carrying some of the better bicycle clothing.

      http://www.ibex.com

      http://www.swrvestore.com

    2. Gary

      On other word of warning… if you can don’t take on an operating capital loan.

      http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=199977

      banks can and do yank them with no notice.

  5. James Grindle

    Glad your staying in the neighborhood.
    I would like to collaborate on a bike specific neighborhood tour.
    There are things to see that can be done more efficently and in less time than any walking tour on a bike.
    The grand idea could be some sort of collaboration with the Underground Tour, Klondike Gold Rush National Park and Trail To Treasure or simply you and I.

    As far as alley safety I have worked with the Alley Network over the past 18 months and believe the reality is much nicer than the perception. Yes there are late night issues with restroom releif and tagging but the more the alleys are populated and “re-claimed” by positive influences the negative energies should continue to dwindle.

    1. James- can do. Feel free to contact me @ 206.307.1179 Construction is set to begin! only a couple of quick weeks away…

      I wholly agree that the reality is much nicer than the perception. One of the ideas of having a bike shop in the alley rather than say, a mortgage underwriter, is the vitality that we bring. Day after day, the cumulative effect will pretty cool. Thanks for the input!

  6. Natalia

    As a woman who works/bikes to pioneer square alley’s don’t worry me, but they do tend to get a certain smell! Eliminate that (as much as feasible) and have good lighting and I think location shouldn’t be a problem. Also Bike mechanics who don’t automatically treat you like an idiot is a big one. Completely agree with what Tom said earlier “I appreciate when bike mechanics explain the problem and how to fix it to me, without giving me the “just let me do my job” look.”

    Oh and carrying a selection of helmets, gloves, lights, and other basic accessories would be great.

  7. […] spoke with the shop’s owner Ben Rainbow in December about closing the Bicycle Alliance’s Bike Port and the attached JRA bike shop, […]

  8. […] their official Grand Opening in Nord Alley during the First Thursday Art Walk. They’ve been open since February 14, but now it’s official. So stop by and buy something from them (or just say […]

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