The more I get to know our local businesses in SE Portland, the more reasons I have to brag with complete assurance about what a treasure they all are to our community.
I had a friend who worked in management for Sears who would entertain us with stories about executive directives to do things like carry riding mowers in every store – he didn’t live in inner SE Portland at the time but he did live in a part of the country where no one’s lawn was even remotely big enough to justify the purchase. To keep the great big mowing machines from just taking up display space and collected dust, they took to using them as counter tops for other products.
Nothing takes up display space and collects dust at Veloce Bicycles or Clever Cycles – two great Portland bike stores on Hawthorne.
To say Portland is unique among American cities is probably a generous understatement. Our businesses get to reflect and foster wonderful niches of commerce that feed our need for real products, well made and well supported.
My check in at Veloce took a back seat yesterday to the woman who rolled in with her two-year-old bike cracked through the frame. She wasn’t nervous or agitated. She knew why she spent her money at a local shop with a good reputation so that, if or when this kind of thing happened, she’d have an easy time getting it replaced. She left the bike in good hands and picked out the new handle bar grip tape she was going to add on in process.
In the process of searching out the best products, sometimes Todd and Dean at Clever Cycles decide to take matters in their own hands. The electric assist device that makes commuter bikes manageable was developed by Todd so he could ride the hills of San Francisco (about the equivalent experience to riding our smaller hills with several kids piled on and a bunch of groceries).
Some of the Portlanders I admire most ride so much that switching gear between the road, home and the office begins to seem pretty pointless. Dean and Todd saw a need that wasn’t yet being filled with the clothes on the market and set out to find the ultimate wear-everywhere pants. After a bit of trial and error, they ended up co-creating a product that is just starting to go national.
To me their inspired creation looks like a very basic pair of black pants (and that’s the point so they blend in with everything.) The Hawthorne Stealth Pantaloon is made of wool thin enough to be worn in warm weather and, because they are made of wool, warm in cold weather even when soaking wet. And, best of all, those magic qualities of the chemistry of wool make it so that the odors that would get into and linger in other clothes don’t take hold in the cloth. Work out (or just get a work out going to work) and walk into the office, or your co-op preschool stint, like you just came from the dry cleaners.
The owners of Clever Cycles did the honorable thing and kept the design and manufacture of the pants in the states which means we get to do the honorable thing and pay a living wage for our clothes: $157 a pair. Good thing you can wear them for days on end and they’ll really last so you can get your money’s worth. This is just round two of offering the pants through their store. The first 100 pants sold out last season and another 100 pairs of men’s size 26-38 and women’s size 2-18 are waiting for the next converts to the ways of wool. Some of the best rain gear in Portland for toddlers to adults is waiting for you too.
Veloce has a new convert or an old, long time fan depending on how you want to look at it. Demetri, long time owner of Veloce and one of the back bones of the Portland biking movement is retiring (actually graduating to running a fitting studio – no bike sales just working with really serious riders fitting them to the best bikes for their ride). In that role, he’ll be keeping close ties with Veloce’s new owner Brent Engstrom.
Brent’s Italian mom and Demetri are getting along great. Brent, at 38 with a 9 year old son – who may find his way to The Roost before long – is in his element keeping the strong relationships going between rider and bike and store and community. He’s been a road and mountain biker since high school and could never quite abide by the high volume sales model of the Performance Bicycle in Beaverton where he did his early years in the business.
He’s been working at Veloce for over a month and the official owner for just 3 weeks. He’s as happy as the rest of us that he’s inherited a shop with an all night mechanic. Bring your bike in by 7pm and Tom will work through the night to have it fixed when the shop opens the next day. Demetri will be in and out for the next month so you can say hellos and goodbyes with one visit before Christmas.
And while you are there, or at Clever Cycles, you can make your all-weather ride a whole lot more pleasant and safe with bike lights, back wheel fenders, water proof bags and all weather tires.
If they don’t have what you need, describe it to them. Next thing you know, they will have found it or found some way to have it made.
Clever Cycles 908 SE Hawthorne Boulevard M-Th: 11-6; Fr: 11-8; Sa-Su: 11-5 503.334.1560
Veloce Bicycles 3202 SE Hawthorne Boulevard M, W, Th & F 11-7, Sat 10-5 Tu& Sun: gone cycling. 503-234-8400