Since 2009, Sic Transit Cycle has thrived in a former garage on Pontiac Tr. next to Johnny Rush’s barber shop on the corner of Broadway. The boutique bicycle shop and service center’s team of ten has since maximized every inch of available space. When neighboring Adrian’s T Shirt Printery closed after thirty years on Swift St, Sic Transit was able to take over their space and launch the retail end of the business. Then the pandemic hit, bringing an avalanche of new customers with it. When the St. Vincent de Paul’s thrift shop closed around the corner in the historic Anson Brown Block, Sic Transit saw their chance to finally have the space they’d long needed. The company moved the service center out of the garage into the Broadway storefront, more than doubling their space. They’ll share the front corner of the store with partner business FitMi, a custom bicycle fitting company owned by Jessica Bratus.
“It’s strange to be a part of a business that’s doing well during such tough times. There is almost a guilty feeling,” says Sic Transit co-owner Michael Firn. “Historically people in that block have stayed in business for a really long time and things don’t open up that often. We were more than ready- it was overdue. We can fulfill the demand better with happier and more comfortable employees”—and even add some staff.
Now that space is no longer a limiting factor, the only obstacle to Sic Transit’s growth is supply. High tariffs on Chinese-made bicycles and components, factory shutdowns there because of the coronavirus, and skyrocketing demand are delaying fulfillment of new bike orders by up to a year. But these issues have not harmed their bottom line. “The logjam isn’t detrimental to our business because of the increase in demand,” Firn explains. “I think the loser is the person who wants to get a bicycle and they’re just not available. All the product that was supposed to land in the US in 2020 was sold ahead of time. Supply can’t keep up.”
But delays on new orders have not prevented the Northside residents from showing up for their local bike shop, and business is booming. Typically the bicycle industry grows at about five percent per year. This year demand soared by fifty percent, a trend Firn anticipates will continue through 2021. Meanwhile, people who can’t get their hands on new bikes are pulling old bikes out of storage and refurbishing them. This suits Sic Transit just fine: their greatest profit margins are in service and parts. “Bike shops don’t make a lot of money on complete bikes,” says Firn. With high tariffs on steel for Chinese-made bikes, margins are even slimmer. “Prices jumped ten to twenty percent because of the trade war. It’s certainly detrimental to the bike industry because it’s hard for the consumer to stomach that.”
Customers have remained loyal and Firn is looking forward to many more years at the new location. “I’m grateful to the Ann Arbor community. It’s an amazing place for supporting small businesses and they have shown how much they care. I’m happy that the success of this year has translated to keeping a vibrant workplace for a lot of staff members.”