ALBANY — Imagine you’re a businessperson, the owner of a bicycle shop, say, and a family of nine comes in, cash in hand, and says, “We want to buy nine bicycles.” And while you’re imagining, imagine that the average cost of those bicycles is $500 ... each.
Then, imagine yourself saying, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have anymore bicycles in stock ... and we haven’t heard back from our suppliers in more than two months.”
Now you know what Gene Kirk’s life is like.
The owner of Breakaway Cycles Bike Shop in Albany, Kirk’s tale of woe is no doubt one many are familiar with since the coronavirus pandemic changed the world. But it didn’t start out that way.
“Man, when all this started, I actually started feeling a little guilty,” Kirk said. “While some businesses were struggling, we were selling bikes hand over first; it was Christmas times 10.
“Even when our inventory started zeroing out, I wasn’t really concerned. That’s not uncommon during our busy times of the year. I figured I’d place an order and we’d get more inventory in. But you know what ... what I’ve found out — the hard way — is that there are no bikes. Not just in Albany ... or Georgia ... there are no bikes in the country.”
Told that bicycles, when they became available, would be shipped on a first-come, first served basis, Kirk placed an order for 70-80 bikes (“In essence, a semi full.”) That was two months ago. He hasn’t heard a word since.
“OK, so you have no bikes in inventory, and you have no idea when or if you’re ever going to get some, so you get by on repairs,” Kirk said. “But now, we’re zeroing out in regular parts as well. You can’t get tires, tubes, chains, seats ... things you never think twice about ordering. Distributors have simply quit communicating with us.
“To show you how bad it is, take the 26-inch tube, that is the most popular piece of equipment on the planet. I used to sell a case a week. Now ... none. I used to order by the hundreds, but now, I’m lucky if I find five or two or one. If I happen to come across any, I go ahead and buy them all. Anything I can get my hands on.”
So Kirk has made a habit now of watching traffic as if flows in front of his shop on Ledo Road.
“Every semi that pulls up, I get my hopes up,” he said. “I’ll watch it, hoping every time it’s my delivery coming through. So far, though, I’m still waiting.”