The other day, we paid a visit to Frank Arroyo of Frank’s Bike Shop to see how the beloved (and now – bizarrely – controversial) Lower East Side businessman is weathering the Citi Bike storm. Frank, operating on Grand Street for 37 years, found himself at the center of a bike share hullabaloo after the New York Post “exclusively” reported that he feared a nearby Citi Bike station could “run him out of business.” A petition demanding that the city move the station has more than 1,000 signatures. A counter petition has only attracted a couple dozen supporters, but commenters on The Lo-Down and elsewhere, longtime friends of Frank among them, have been arguing that Citi Bike is no threat to the local bike shop.
This week, Frank made it clear to us that the Post took a lot of liberties (shocking!) with their story, which fit nicely into their established narrative that Citi-Bike is evil. There’s no question Frank has concerns about the impact of the bike share program on his rental business, which makes up 20-30% of the store’s revenue. But he’s actually pretty circumspect about the situation. Since the story was published May 27, the phone has been ringing off the hook from opponents of Citi Bike — people anxious to recruit him as the “poster boy” for the anti-bike share cause. He has zero interest in that.
What he is focusing on is figuring out how to compete in a changed environment. Frank said the biggest concern is not the Citi Bike docks near his shop but the ones located near hotels (there are two on Allen Street adjacent the Thompson LES). Frank’s rental business comes almost entirely from referrals from hotels in the neighborhood. He’s never sought out the tourist business — it’s just come to him. Now, Frank is talking about reaching out to the hotels to make sure concierges don’t forget about his shop.
It’s probably a little early to tell whether Citi Bike is impacting Frank’s Bikes. Last weekend, Frank said, rental business was down. That’s not too surprising. On Sunday, we noticed quite a few tourists checking out Citi Bike (it’s the talk of the town, after all). Tourists may very well use bike share for short trips around the city, but they’ll soon find out that the Citi Bike fee structure makes longer excursions prohibitively expensive.
If there’s a bright side from the controversy of the past two weeks, Frank says, it’s this: 37 years in business has earned him intense loyalty on the Lower East Side. Longtime customers are extremely protective of a local businessman who’s established an abundance of good will over nearly four decades selling bikes to generations of families.