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Palm Coast Thursday, Jul. 30, 2020 6 days ago

A good ride: How PC Bike boomed, then closed, during COVID-19

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Co-owner Jake Scully said that, over the past 18 years, the shop helped connect many people in Palm Coast — including himself.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

First, PC Bike enjoyed a COVID boom. Then, COVID effectively put PC Bike out of business, after 18 years of multigenerational bike sales and support for community causes.

“It has been an honor to serve this community, bring happiness through the simple joy that is a Bicycle and do our part to help some of the great organizations in our area,” PC Bike posted on its Facebook page before closing on July 21.

The shop was owned by two men who were passionate about bicycles: Jake Scully and James Clayton.

 

Beginnings

Scully is a longtime Palm Coaster. His parents moved to town in 1982, and he returned with his own family in 1991. “I was 28,” he recalled. “Our kids were both in diapers.”

Scully was an avid cyclist, but he had to drive to Daytona Beach to find a decent bike shop. He also worked at a company in Daytona and wasn’t involved in Palm Coast much at all; meanwhile, his wife, Kelly, was volunteering at schools and felt truly part of the community. Scully decided he wanted to connect to Palm Coast also.

“You’ve got to be a decent guy to own a bike shop.”

JAMES CLAYTON, referring to his business partner, Jake Scully

The two needs came together in PC Bike, which started in 2002. But Scully didn’t have time to run the shop.

He knew an expert repairman, Clayton, who worked at bike shops in Volusia County and was also a teammate of Scully’s on an amateur cycling team in Orlando. Clayton moved to Palm Coast and became the face of PC Bike starting in 2003.

“He’s really been the essence of the shop,” Scully said of Clayton. “He’s the heart of the organization.”

Clayton said Scully has been “very selfless.” The shop never made much money, but it wasn’t about money for Scully.

“The vast majority of what he’s done has been pro bono to keep the shop going,” Clayton said. “You’ve got to be a decent guy to own a bike shop.”

 

‘Everyone rides’

From the beginning, it was meant to be a shop that would serve everyone.

“We didn’t want to be a shop that served just the high-end guy in spandex, even though I was one,” Scully recalled. “We wanted a shop that served young families, retirees and everything in between. We kept it pretty simple.”

Clayton recalled the wide demographic of customers.

“I’ll get a homeless person and a millionaire,” he said. “You don’t know who’s going to walk in the door. Bicycles tie all kinds of people together. Doesn’t matter how poor, young, ethnicity — nothing matters. Everyone rides bicycles. In our store, everyone for the most part gets along. Everyone can talk about turning the pedals."

 

Community institution

Scully said he used to refer to PC Bike as his “favorite nonprofit” because it didn’t make much money. But the shop also was active in promoting other causes, including the Flagler Beach Rotary Club’s Century Ride, breast cancer awareness rides, the Friends of Tennis Scholarship Fund, Turtle Fest, Tommy Tant Memorial, the AdventHealth Foundation and others.

Scully and a former coworker rode across the United States in 2009 and raised $10,000 for the Flagler County Education Foundation, sleeping in tents half the nights.

The shop also repaired and donated hundreds of bikes for Project Share. It hosted Ladies' Flat-Repair Clinics, sponsored sports teams and supported the Palm Coast Arts Foundation.

“It’s something that’s kind of defined all of us involved — James’s better half, Diane, and my wife, Kelly,” said Scully, who also is on the board of the Flagler Tiger Bay Club and the Palm Coast Planning and Land Development Regulation Board.

In short, it worked: Starting PC Bike helped Scully connect to the community he lived in. In fact, he joked, he had to drive less aggressively because he put a PC Bike magnet on his truck and didn’t want to make the business look bad.

Kelly Scully also recalled stories of customers, including a Pennsylvania couple who vacationed in Palm Coast and loved the bike paths so much that they moved here. Or the older man who was depressed but seemed to find joy in riding his three-wheeler that his family bought for him.

“He died four or five years ago,” Kelly Scully said, “and his wife said how much the bike meant to him."

Another meaningful way Jake Scully got involved was in advocating for the bike path extension that was eventually built in 2017 along Old Kings Road. A teenager named Kelvin Smith had died where the path had ended, and that made an impact on Scully — in part because Scully’s own father died while bicycling in 1992 when a car hit him.

“My father had a very dry sense of humor and would probably think it hilarious that I opened a bike shop,” he said.

 

COVID boom and bust

In 18 years, the busiest time for PC Bike was this spring, after the pandemic hit Florida.

“Everyone went bicycle crazy, and you can call all sorts of local shops, and they will tell you the same thing,” Jake Scully said.

Sales were brisk as the pandemic hit, but then inventory ran out.

Prior to the pandemic, PC Bike sold 20-25 bikes a month. Thanks to the emphasis on spending time out doors and social distancing, people realized that cycling was a desirable, safe option, and bike sales doubled for a couple of months. When bikes started selling out at department stores, people started pulling their old bikes out of garages and bringing them in to PC Bike for repairs, Clayton said.

In mid-April, Scully and Clayton started to realize it might not be sustainable for long. Not only were manufacturers of bicycles running out of inventory, but, in late May, so were manufacturers of spare parts and inner tubes. Orders for 200 new bikes weren’t going to arrive till October or November.

“We had absolutely nothing to sell,” Scully said.

Repairs that were usually completed in two days were now backlogged three weeks.

He and Clayton had a difficult conversation and asked each other whether the business was sustainable.

“We really couldn’t serve the community anymore,” Scully said. “James and I were both kind of like, ‘This might be time to call it a day. It’s been 18 years; it’s been a nice run.’”

 

Closing time

Clayton said he’s hopeful that other shops in the area will benefit from less competition with PC Bike closing. “Small mom and pop shops are a dying breed,” he said.

“James has touched a lot of lives.”

JAKE SCULLY, on his business partner, James Clayton

But cycling is here to stay, and someone needs to deliver on those multigenerational sales that reminded everyone at PC Bike why the shop existed.

One of those sales occurred on the last day PC Bike was open. A young woman who, when she was about 12, had bought a BMX bike at the shop, stopped in again.

“She now has her own kid,” Clayton said, “and she was buying her kid her first bicycle.”

“He has outfitted entire families,” Jake Scully said. “James has touched a lot of lives.”

The last day at PC Bike was July 21, 2020. Courtesy photo

 

Brian McMillan has been editor of the Palm Coast Observer since it began in 2010. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children. Email...

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