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G&O Family Cyclery is closing after ten years

A large group of people inside the latest G&O location listening to Davey Oil and Tyler Gillies speak.
From a March 2017 community celebration of G&O moving to its latest location one year after the Greenwood gas explosion. Founders Tyler Gillies and Davey Oil are in the grey caps. Gillies left a few years ago and now runs Dandelion Bikes at 18th and Jackson.

In a devastating and unexpected announcement Friday, G&O Family Cyclery sent a message to customers that the shop is permanently closing. They will be totally closed until January 17, then they will reopen to sell off remaining stock. They are also working to complete existing orders, but are no longer taking service appointments.

This news comes on the heels of a series of bike shop closures in the area, a troubling nationwide trend. Like several other industries, bike demand went through the roof in the first couple years of the pandemic when supplies were limited. Now supplies are plentiful, but demand has dropped back down. At the same time, the margins on running a shop dependent on in-person retail sales have continued shrinking. Some mainstay bike shops like Velo and Counterbalance closed, and now G&O is joining them.

“The business has not been consistently profitable ever,” said owner Davey Oil, who is also a personal friend of mine. (Full disclosure: G&O has been a Seattle Bike Blog advertiser). They have had ups and downs, but “the inciting event was unexpected,” he said. “A loan was denied that I had been assured we had secured.” As a result, they “were not able to secure the funds we would have needed to get through a very lean winter.”


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Half the team at G&O has already been laid off, and the remaining staff will be on hand to work through what is necessary to close the shop (UPDATE: Jenna from G&O has set up a GoFundMe to support staff). Oil is taking sales offers if anyone wants to own a family bike shop.

The shop’s challenges are two-fold, according to Oil: The cost of quality electric cargo bikes is “unreasonably high” for most people, and the cost of living in Seattle is too high for the skilled tradespeople needed to run this kind of specialty shop. “I think it’s impossible to operate a shop like this without a sizeable staff of very well-trained and knowledgeable workers,” said Oil, but “Seattle is not affordable to tradespeople.” He said he was trying to figure out some way to increase worker pay and grow the number of staffers when the loan was denied and the bottom fell out.

Washington State passed funding for e-bike subsidies in the 2023-25 budget, but WSDOT has not yet set up the distribution process to get those subsidies to buyers. So that is a bright spot on the horizon for a future family and cargo bike shop, but it will come too late to save G&O. “What I hope for for the next family cyclery, customers have access to more subsidies that make them more affordable so that a broader range of customers can use them,” said Oil.

Oil is taking the closure hard. We cried on the phone together while talking about it. “I don’t believe we failed,” he said. “We accomplished most of what we set out to do.” They had an impact on the industry, and they “equipped countless families with the gear they needed and the community resources they needed to make a, sadly still radical lifestyle shift.” The rise of family biking in Seattle changed the face of who shows up for political advocacy for safe streets, and all the people out biking around town with their kids are demonstrating to the public that such an activity is not only possible, it’s also wonderful. They also trained a lot of people who had never been professional bike mechanics in a welcoming environment, fostering a workforce that is “overwhelmingly queer.”

This is not the first time G&O has been on the brink. In March 2016, a major nighttime gas leak caused a massive explosion inside the restaurant space next door to G&O’s original shop location, destroying a lot of the shop’s merchandise and equipment and rendering their physical location uninhabitable. Puget Sound Energy held out on paying for the damage as long as they could, hanging G&O out to dry in the meantime. Seattle Bike Blog along with many other community members rallied to raise funds to keep the shop alive and help them find a new home nearby.

I may have been the first ever customer of G&O Family Cyclery back when they opened in 2013. I visited the shop before it opened and swung by on day one because I was so excited about the idea of a shop dedicated to cargo and family biking. And like so many biking families in town, we got our workhorse of a cargo bike from them, allowing us to easily and happily live car-free even with a kid.

Photo of Davey Oil stocking a shelf in a half-finished bike shop space.
Davey Oil works to open G&O back in 2013.

Back in 2013, and maybe still today, the idea of a shop forgoing the higher-volume commuter and road bike markets to focus solely on cargo and family bikes felt like a huge risk. Oil once described it to me as “a fringe of a fringe business.” My road bike was built by G&O in the early days when they were still toying with the idea of selling conventional bikes along with cargo bikes. But the demand for cargo bikes turned out to be strong enough that they would have their hands full just serving families, so I may be the only person with a G&O road bike. In the process, they helped create a model for a family-focused bike shop that has been influential across the industry.

By specializing in this family biking niche, G&O became a powerful resource for anyone looking to stay car-free or at least do more without driving. Losing access to their knowledge and experience with finding family biking solutions feels as tough as losing the shop itself. You gotta understand that in 2013, family cargo biking in the U.S. often required all kinds of (sometimes sketchy) DIY workarounds because the mainstream bike industry had very few off-the-shelf solutions to meet people’s needs. Morgan Scherer, former Executive Director of Familybike Seattle, used to bike a fleet of different cargo bike options to various community functions because that was the only way to let people try these things out. The past ten years have seen a remarkable increase in the number of family biking options available, and even mainstream places like REI are now selling quality electric cargo bikes. G&O played a part in legitimizing this market in the U.S. because if this kind of biking can work in hilly Seattle, it can work just about anywhere.

Below is an excerpt from G&O’s post announcing the news:

Over the years our cost of doing business and the cost of living in our city have only gone up. We have aspired to provide living, professional wages to highly skilled tradespeople. I firmly believe that high wages and more opportunities and entry level positions for more diverse types of mechanics and salespeople are the keys to revising the bike retail model and replacing the exclusive and gatekeeping culture of bike shops and at the same time provide service that is more reliable and better value than riders are typically able to depend on.

After years of skirting the edge, depending on tightening margins, and digging for good luck in heaps of bad, we have hit a string of the bad kind; the reality that we cannot support ourselves and at the same time do this work in the manner that we most want has become undeniable.

It is a true thing to say that if your business can’t afford to pay fair wages, your business has no business doing business.

The shop’s closure is happening faster than we would have liked, and the livelihoods of my staff and myself are all at risk, as is our ability to meet all of the obligations we have to our customers. We will be closed for the next few days to organize ourselves, and then in the next few weeks, starting on Wednesday the 17th, we hope that you’ll consider coming in and picking up anything you might need from our shop. We have many high-quality ebikes for sale, as well as accessories like lights and helmets. We have bags of Lego for sale on a sliding scale from $5-500. We have all kinds of lovely things, and any support would be greatly appreciated.


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17 responses to “G&O Family Cyclery is closing after ten years”

  1. William Gerdes

    How much would the loan have been for? Just wondering if it is at a level where we could all chip in It’s A Wonderful Life style and rescue the Savings and Loan.

    1. Donna

      Davey, G&O survived the gas explosion, the pandemic, and more. If you want to keep going, I’m in to support it. If you feel it’s time, I support you too. You’ve brought so much to the cycling community. Even heroes need rest sometimes.

      1. William Gerdes

        I had an opportunity to speak briefly with Davey Oil this afternoon after my initial post. If I understood correctly (and I’m a sub-par listener), saving the store without a monied buyer and a different business model is not feasible. HOWEVER, they are trying to exit gracefully and fulfill their out-standing obligations to employees, customers, and vendors. So if people are willing to come to the re-opening on the 17th and purchase existing inventory/pay the normally expected price/pay a little bit more/and/or donate, that will allow them to make their vendors whole, fulfill existing orders, and give their employees support in the closure.

    2. Erica

      Hi William, I was laid off before the closing was announced but I heard multiple times how supportive and wonderful you were to my coworkers during this time. Thanks so much for your support!
      Some of us former G&O employees want to stay in touch about what we’re doing next – when we figure it out!
      Please
      – follow us on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/former_go_staff) and/or
      – subscribe to our email announcement list (https://mailchi.mp/fb94222a080f/go-staff-next-steps)
      We miss you all!

  2. Merlin R Rainwater

    Really sad to hear this news. My Brompton that survived the explosion and my G & O custom workhorse panniers will testify forever to the wonderfulness of G & O. I’ll be sure to come by after the 17th.

    1. Erica

      Hi Merlin, thanks for your kind words. Some of us former G&O employees want to stay in touch about what we’re doing next – when we figure it out!
      Please
      – follow us on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/former_go_staff)
      – subscribe to our email announcement list (https://mailchi.mp/fb94222a080f/go-staff-next-steps)

  3. Gordon Padelford

    Ugh. A huge loss. The knowledge, support, and ethos of GoFamilyCyclery & Davey arguably did more to normalize family biking in Seattle than anyone else. Very bummed about this news

  4. Jennifer Litowski

    I am so sorry to hear this news. I have great memories of Davey, Tyler and the shop from my time in Seattle. They played such a role in shaping Seattle’s family biking culture.

  5. Hank

    Every closing bike store you’ve written about recently, I have had one or more bad consumer experiences. Counterbalance the worst, but all off them not good. And I’m not demanding, just a 5000-8000 mile a year cyclist who expects normal service, like at a bakery or auto mechanic. So much defensive and snooty and insider behavior in the cycling industry, almost as bad as surf shops.

    Lately I’ve read a few articles in the mainstream bicycle press about how bike shops have the worst customer service reputation in all of retail and have brought collapse upon themselves. Yep.

    1. David

      Hank, let me say for myself, and likely others: you are an outlier. An aberration that does not prove the rule.

    2. Gordon Padelford

      Everyone is welcome to their own opinions, but the survey done by “women, trans, femme and gender nonconforming people” found it to be the second most welcoming bike shop in the city: https://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2020/02/14/splain-survey-rates-seattle-bike-shops-by-how-comfortable-women-trans-femme-and-gender-nonconforming-people-feel-there/

      1. Dirt McGirt

        Meanwhile, Gordon, the shop I work for was never approached for that survey in spite of having been in business for a decade beforehand.

        Not very thorough if you end up skipping a bunch of shops in town.

    3. Dirt McGirt

      Hank, I hear ya.

      I’ve been in this business 32 years (22 of those here in W Washington) so I’ve seen what you’ve experienced.

      As a large man, I’ve been scoffed at, completely disregarded and treated like an outsider by most shops in town, including G&O. All the while living out the Ron Swanson in Home Depot “I know more than you” meme with every visit. I did my time at Gregg’s (Greenlake, Aurora and Alderwood) and was never fat shamed more in my entire life. And I went to public school in the 80’s and 90’s! And they’re supposed to be the key to success in this town!

      There are shops out there that actually treat everyone with respect, but they are few and far between. Don’t let anyone call you an outlier. That’s dismissive, harmful and downright incorrect and shortsighted.

      I strive to pass my lived experiences along to any and all shop employees that I’ve trained and worked with over the years and hopefully a new world will dawn soon. One less shop bro at a time.

      Keep the rubber side down and your chin up! Change is coming whether shop bros like it or not!

  6. Daigoro Toyama

    This is easily the worst piece of news I’ve heard in a long while.

    We bought our e-cargo bike from G&O about two years ago. The bike was a game changer that has given us a new life. helping us reduce driving and enjoy riding around as a family.

    I just spoke with Davey a week ago. It was a simple question, and he took time to not only give me his answer but provided useful information to help me further. He gave me absolutely no clue how they were struggling.

    I wish Davey the best of luck for whatever future he chooses.

    1. Erica

      Thanks for your kind words. Some of us former G&O employees want to stay in touch about what we’re doing next – when we figure it out!
      Please
      – follow us on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/former_go_staff)
      – subscribe to our email announcement list (https://mailchi.mp/fb94222a080f/go-staff-next-steps)

  7. Paul Tolme

    Davey Oil is a hero to the Seattle bike community and G&O’s closure is a blow to the family biking movement. I had the honor of interviewing Davey for this story, Oil on the Roadways, which is recommended reading for anyone who wants to learn more about Davey’s legacy, his inclusive hiring practices, his national level role in inspiring the cargo biking movement, and how G&O helped inspire other Family Cycleries across the country.

    https://cascade.org/news/2023/09/oil-roadways

    Love you, Davey. Hope to see you back working in the bike advocacy space and/or bike industry, which needs your heart and compassion and expertise.

  8. Erica

    Thanks for the kind words, all. I’m a former mechanic at G&O laid off early this month. Some of us former G&O employees want to stay in touch about what we’re doing next – when we figure it out!
    Please
    – follow us on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/former_go_staff)
    – subscribe to our email announcement list (https://mailchi.mp/fb94222a080f/go-staff-next-steps)
    We miss you all!

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