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A big effort is underway to save G&O Family Cyclery after the Greenwood explosion

NOTE: G&O Family Cyclery is not only a Seattle Bike Blog advertiser, but co-owner Davey Oil is a close friend. He even officiated my wedding (and was amazing). I note this for disclosure, but also to emphasize that this shop is very special. I can’t wait to see it back open better than ever.

Photo of the old shop shortly after the explosion, from Davey Oil. The building was structurally damaged and has since been torn down.

G&O Family Cyclery is more than a store.

G&O is bike infrastructure as much as a bike lane. It’s a resource where people can try out and purchase bikes that do more, bikes that can replace a minivan.

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But early Wednesday, a major gas leak ignited in a dramatic blast. Mr Gyros, Neptune Coffee and the Quick Stop corner store were leveled completely. And though photos show the G&O storefront directly adjacent to Neptune Coffee still standing, co-owner Davey Oil said the shop has also been destroyed.

“Our status right now is looking for where we can go,” he said. The shop is closed for the now, but Davey and co-owner Tyler Gillies are not giving up. And judging by the huge outpouring of help, the Greenwood and family biking communities aren’t giving up either.

An effort to raise money to support the shop’s incredible staff and invest in reopening in a new space passed the $15,000 mark in just 18 hours with 192 people donating to the cause as of press time. You can help them reach their goal by donating online or mailing a check. More details here.

“I’m not interested in closing, I’m not interested in giving up at all,” said Davey. And especially after going through this challenge together, he’s also dedicated to the Greenwood neighborhood.

“The people of Greeenwood have been amazing,” he said. “I want to stay here” to keep serving the neighborhood as their local bike shop and to keep introducing people to the power of family biking, but also “to fix everybody’s stroller wheels.”

Davey and Tyler work to open G&O back in 2013
Davey and Tyler work to open G&O back in 2013

In just three years, the shop has become a part of what makes Greenwood Greenwood. But more than that, the shop changes lives.

G&O made a leap of faith when it opened three years ago. Davey and Tyler both had extensive bike shop experience and young kids, so family biking was going to be a big part of their business. But was there really a market for a full-time family bike shop in Seattle?

“We opened a fringe of a fringe business,” as Davey describes it. And they had no idea if there were enough customers out there to make ends meet.

But since the day they opened their doors, they’ve been slammed. The shop has been one of the biggest engines behind Seattle’s family biking revolution in recent years, a movement that is rewriting all the bike infrastructure and bike advocacy rules. Instead of painting skinny bike lanes and sharrows for confident commuters, the city’s bike efforts are focused on bike infrastructure that parents riding with kids would be feel comfortable using. Or at least that’s the vision.

Dramatically-improved electric assist technology was a key piece allowing family and cargo biking to approach mainstream in hilly Seattle. There have long been pioneering families who have found ways to make biking work, sharing their knowledge with their tight-knit communities. But G&O is reaching beyond, connecting with people who may never have considered family biking before stepping through the shop’s doors.

But as with any new technology like the many competing e-assist designs, it takes a lot of work to learn how to build and service the ever-changing tech. And G&O staff have stumbled ahead, innovating and improving as they go.

“When I say that we have so much more to give, it’s because we do,” said Davey. “We’re less than three years old, and we had just gotten our feet underneath us about how to do this…we had to invent a lot of this stuff.”

That’s also where this devastating setback for the business could lead to a shop that’s better than ever. Davey said it felt like the business and Seattle’s family and cargo biking movement was just about to crest a hill. And on the other side of that hill is the rest of Seattle who never would have thought about ditching a car for a bicycle before.

“If we survive this, we can do it even better,” said Davey. “What we have coming is so exciting.”

Again, you can help G&O get back on its feet by donating online or by sending a check to:

Umpqua Bank
7120 Greenwood Ave N.
Seattle, WA 98103

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26 responses to “A big effort is underway to save G&O Family Cyclery after the Greenwood explosion”

  1. Andres Salomon

    In case you’re wondering about insurance money, that’s answered here:

    1. Mark

      Sounds like G & O has inadequate insurance coverage if it’s going to take one to two years to collect on damages (all business should have/add “Business Interruption Insurance” coverage in their policy if it’s not included). I feel sorry for their unfortunate event. However, I’ll remind all readers this is a for profit business and I don’t see the justification of anyone giving them a hand out because they were ill-prepared. Everyone donating is like the perfect blind investor; giving money away for nothing. Yes, their product is unique and fulfills a niche market yet all they are doing is plucking on the strings of our bleeding hearts to raise liquidity (note how they state on the funding page they “don’t want to lay anyone off ” and “If we all pull together, G & O will be better than ever.”)

      Sorry G & O for the harsh words, it’s very unfortunate our community isn’t getting any equity in your company for bailing your asses out which would be the right thing to do.

      1. Kate McGrath

        Hi Mark,

        I don’t think you understand how gifts work. Or you misunderstand how G&O’s customers/donators view this. I’ve donated $300 to G&O’s recovery effort because they are important to me and I know how slow the investigation and insurance claim process can be. I saw a friend lose his small business after a drunk driver drove through it because the process to get insurance payments was just too slow for a small profit margin business to survive. I don’t view myself as some kind of blind investor in their business, but let’s say I am an investor now. Will I get a return on this investment? Hell yes. Every time I go into the new G&O not to buy something, but because my kid needs to use the bathroom. Every time I go in to see if they can repair my bike and I’m told by one of the owners, “I can schedule a time to fix it for you, or you can go home and watch a youtube video and do it. I know you can handle this.” There’s more ways to receive value than equity in the company.

      2. Jason

        Mark, your letter is exactly why communities are falling apart. Too many people like you who are only out for themselves.

      3. Mark

        In response to Kate McGrath:

        A handout is something (cash in this case) given freely to those in need (G&O) which is exactly what you gave, not a “gift” or “donation”. You’ve also appeared to overlook myself touching base on having Business Interruption Insurance . Go look it up as this would have covered all their expenses while being in turmoil avoiding their pathetic call for help. At the end of the day all those warm and fuzzy moments you’ve mention can’t hide the fact G&O is a for profit business and is running to make money (if they say otherwise they’d be lying). Had G&O operated as an NPO then we’d know they were formed for the common good of the public.

        Reply to Jason;

        My logic is not the reason communities fall apart. I’ve donated hundreds of dollars to Boys&Girls Club of Washington. I am also very proud to work at a company that directly supports over 20 NPO’s and charities within our state. How can I support a business being portrayed as something positive for the community when their management has loose ends? The right thing for G & O to do, at the very lest, is to reemerge as a co-op.

      4. WhittierRider

        While I don’t appreciate the tone of your comment, I do acknowledge where you are coming from. As a non-business-owner, I too wonder why insurance isn’t covering the losses from this disaster. I’m still unclear why the insurance companies wouldn’t give them some upfront money to cover initial costs to keep the business afloat…isn’t that what you pay for?
        To me, this situation sounds like the perfect time for an organization/foundation, the Phinney Neighborhood Association, or a local credit union to issue short-term small business loans that can bridge the gap and keep these businesses going.
        That being said, I’m impressed and heartened by the generosity of spirit from our neighbors to pitch in.

      5. I’m not sure while you feel the need to complain and decree that equity/a co-op is the right thing to do? Why not just not donate and go on with your life? Clearly there are many who don’t feel as you do and who want to help. We asked and offered over and over before the GoFundMe was set up and are happy to help. Perhaps you could roll your eyes at our naïveté or, since you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all.

      6. K

        Hi Mark,

        As one of the hundreds of people who has contributed to the G&O fund, I can pretty much guarantee you that none are “blind investors.” We’re just people who care about a small business.

        Do you think Amazon or Microsoft, if their *entire* operations were totaled in a comparable event, would be up and running and have the cash flow to meet immediate needs? No, they’d likely have to finance their recovery, too. The difference is, their c-suites could probably make a few key calls to people in the right banks and get a credit line flowing overnight and start their recovery process immediately. Small businesses like G&O don’t have access to that kind of resource, even exceptionally well-managed ones. They are taking one of the only steps to survive they have available.

        Since you like to use the investment frame: All “investments” come with risk. The people who are giving to G&O are quite comfortable taking the “risk” that the return on their “investment” might actually save a shop they care deeply about. Without those “investments,” the risk that G&O might not survive is much greater.

        It’s difficult to believe that you’re serious about the NPO or co-op angles. The amount of effort and resource just setting up the administrative structure for a non-profit or a co-op is enormous, let alone running a small shop as an NPO in accordance with IRS requirements. Just doing the financial reporting alone, including getting an annual audit and filing 990s, is onerous. G&O is, what, a 4-person operation? It would be incredibly inefficient and would require more admin than actually building and selling bikes.

        I’m not sure why it’s so hard for you to accept that a lot of people are fine “blindly” “investing” in G&O’s recovery for “no return.” Thankfully, you’re not stopping us.

      7. BEn

        I’m a frequent donor to the Taproot Theater right around the corner. I donate because they are a part of my life and I want them to succeed and value their contribution to the community. Donations are an investment in the community, and hence in my own quality of life.

        Any donations to the bike shop are essentially the same for those who value it’s very existence. Good communities are really rare in big cities, esp. Seattle. Why not give a little to make the area a better place if you live work or shop nearby? What a sad world it would be if everybody just sat alone in their caves and ordered everything they needed from Amazon.

        This explosion is an outlier event. If the business could not succeed in normal (i.e. 99.99% of the time) circumstances, that would be different. My hat is off to those who are donating.

        I just did the same thing to Butte Creek in Eagle Point, Oregon, who suffered a huge fire on Christmas Day. They’d been producing milled grains for well over 140 years. I want to help them stay in business for lots of reasons.

      8. Keith Z

        Hi Mark,

        Thanks for expressing your opinion. Unfortunately, I do disagree with your opinion on several counts. Normally I don’t get into internet back and forth with people in cases like this because it doesn’t seem to serve a purpose, but I can’t let this one go.

        Yes, I agree, shit happens, and hopefully we can all learn from any experience for every possible next time and be as prepared as possible for all contingencies that can happen.

        That said, I am not a blind investor, nor any kind of sap. This situation speaks to me in my Heart, it is about people pulling together to support a strong thread in the interconnected tapestry of community so it doesn’t disappear, to help a community rebuild, even if it is physically far away from where I live. Even though they may never have met me, I have personally had the benefit of their expertise online in the past with bike issues, and I am a cargo/family bike rider, so I feel close to the issue. I am not losing any money nor expecting anything in return, if anything I would say I am paying it forward.

        I have my eyes wide open, and I know personally that many small businesses including the one I have, even though technically are “for-profit”, operate along a continuum of the social business model, and serve many purposes in the community. One is to provide a meaningful way to make a living in our communities while contributing something to the community – like jobs for other people or other benefits like affordable healthcare, even if those things may seem immeasurable or intangible. I strongly suspect that G and O operates NOT to squeeze profit out of the community, and I would be surprised if they make much more than enough to pay their ongoing expenses. Running a small business in most cases is a labor of Love and I imagine they do this because they love people and bikes and their community.

        I wish G and O the best with rebuilding and hopefully all of the small businesses in Greenwood will be able to rebuild for the good of the whole community.

        Sending best wishes and a little cash to all in moving forward from this crazy event!

      9. Eli

        Mark, I applaud your critical voice and willingness to be unpopular. I’ve done it myself, and it’s not easy.

        Still, if you’ve ever been to G&O, you’d probably understand why $40,000 has been handed over by intelligent, fiscally responsible people to a for-profit business.

        What Davey and his partner does goes for customers, and for the community at large, goes far beyond any reasonable expectation of a bike shop. They are, basically, doing a community service as a livelihood.

        If SDOT were as thoughtfully run as G&O, we’d be the best bike city in North America.

        I feel really bad for not contributing but am currently substantially broke.

  2. Kevin Chance

    Tom – You should contact Jonathan Maus or Michael Andersen and ask them to post this information on BikePortland.org.

  3. Madame Mixte

    I write this while fully admitting that I haven’t read every word of news on the gas leak, so maybe someone knows the answer to this, but since none of the businesses affected presumably caused the gas leak, shouldn’t some compensation be due from whoever did cause the gas leak?

    1. Something I’m sure the insurance companies will pursue and why claims will take so long to process.

    2. Steve Treseler

      Yes. It will take 1-2 years for the settle the lawsuits to determine liability.

  4. Rob

    If the issue is bridging the gap between now and when the insurance payment comes in, why not start a campaign to ask for a loan (no interest), rather than a gift. It would take some Excel spreadsheet overhead to keep track of who donated what, but one of the G&O faithful could offer to do that for them. I don’t live in Greenwood and haven’t been to G&O, but I know lots of people who love the place and feel it contributes to the community beyond just being a for-profit business. I am guessing they could raise more by asking for a loan (the real issue), rather than a gift.

    I’m in the category, for instance. I have no real attachment to G&O. But I recognize G&O’s contribution to my values of a family-friendly biking city, and I know people who love it. I was going to start checking out their family bike sometime this summer for myself. It is in my own personal interest to have G&O survive and get back on its feet quickly. I would be willing to give a loan, especially if it came with the option of getting repaid with a small discount if I spent money there shortly after they re-open.

    1. Gordon Padelford

      Folks are clearly willing to give unrestricted gifts, so why would they abandon that for now? I’m mailing a check today because I believe the shop is too important to loose, but I see your point and could lend an additional amount with something like http://communitysourcedcapital.com/.

  5. Steve

    My donation is an actual gift–not a favor or financial investment that demands reciprocity. <3

  6. David Behroozi

    1-2 years and 45K with a little explanation and I’d donate. Without more detail on who quoted them that timeline and what was actually damaged, nope.

    1. K

      Then don’t donate. Jeez, people.

      It’s incredible that people will come here to comment on why they won’t donate, or why the model being used for funds is supposedly wrong/suboptimal/suspect/whatever.

      It’s pretty simple. This shop has strong relationships with its customers and a larger biking community, and many people want to support it. Accountability is laudable, but we’re not talking about a gov’t agency managing public funds or a nonprofit that is taking in huge amounts of donations on an ongoing basis. Clearly G&O has garnered trust on the part of their community. In the unlikely case it violates that trust, it will suffer the consequences. If you don’t share the feelings of supporters, fine. Don’t concern troll small-scale disaster relief for a well-loved small business. It’s a lot like standing by in the aftermath of a crash and asking first responders triaging the scence how they know the persons they’re treating will be appropriately grateful and/or will live their lives optimally post-recovery.

      1. kommish

        This. So much this.

    2. Alex

      I work in the insurance industry. I can’t speak to this situation specifically, but 1-2 years to wait for insurance payment would be highly unusual.

      Fire/explosion is a clear cut loss situation. Inventory is destroyed and the business is closed. This is not a convoluted liability lawsuit that will take years. Standard business property insurance would cover inventory, fixtures, cash on hand, IT equipment, etc. up to the policy limits. Normally the insurance adjuster would cut an advance check pretty quickly to keep the business functioning, relocate to temp space, etc.

      Business income interruption insurance is pretty standard. Maybe only for ~60 days, but better than nothing.

      Insurance companies don’t generally wait for all the lawsuits to settle – they pay their customers first and they try to recover what they can from the at-fault party. There is no valid reason to delay paying a hypothetical $100,000 claim for one bike shop for 1-2 years. There are much, much bigger claims to worry about.

  7. […] Seattle from 5–10 p.m. at Peddler Brewing Company for a fundraiser for G&O Family Cyclery, which was severely damaged in the Greenwood explosion last […]

  8. […] was severely damaged in a major gas explosion a month ago, prompting a big community effort to raise money to help the […]

  9. […] has apologised to the Seattle bike shop damaged in a major gas blast last month having flyposted a message that read “Better bikes come from better bike shops” on the […]

  10. […] The next door neighbor that was formerly G&O family cyclery has still yet to find windows and their mural has already changed to this mesmerizing focal point. We hope they will be back on their feet shortly. Here is an article from the March blast that deserves a read. […]

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