After serving New Haven cyclists for nearly 15 years, the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop, located at 151 Orange St., is under financial strain.
Matthew Feiner, founder and owner of the shop, sent an email yesterday to members of the New Haven cycling community announcing that the shop is in financial trouble and that he has started a fundraiser to keep it from closing. Feiner told the News that the store’s move five years ago from a smaller space on 433 Chapel St. to the current location on Orange Street has contributed to the financial difficulties. Feiner plans to relocate to a smaller space once the lease for the current space expires in August, but he needs to pay back debts to vendors as well as back taxes accumulated during the move.
“Things will be tight. We are really in the hole financially,” Feiner said, adding that the move to the bigger location was a poor business decision.
In addition to selling bikes, the shop hosts bike tours, maintenance clinics and weekly training rides. Feiner aimed to make the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop heavily involved in community activities. The shop is one of the two sponsors of the Yale cycling team, along with College Street Cycles. In addition, it has provided all of the technical support for the Smilow Cancer Hospital’s Closer to Free Ride for the last four years and partners with the city of New Haven to offer free cycling services to underprivileged high school students.
A fundraiser to keep the shop open was put up yesterday afternoon on indiegogo.com, a global crowdfunding website. After eight hours, $3,405 had been donated. The Devil’s Gear hopes to raise $175,000 by May 8, according to the online fundraiser.
Feiner said selling the shop is not an option for him, as he feels too connected to the New Haven cycling community.
“Somebody posted in the comments section [of the online fundraiser] about a time when they came to buy a new bike and I persuaded them instead to get their old one fixed,” Feiner said. They posted that I was ‘not a great business man but a great community man,’ which is nice, because that’s kind of how I wanted to be seen.”
Feiner was officially recognized as a leader in the New Haven community in 2013, when then-Mayor John DeStefano Jr. proclaimed Sept. 20, 2013 “Matthew J. Feiner Day” to commemorate Feiner’s advocacy for bike safety and community-wide events. The official declaration called Feiner a “quintessential New Havener” and attributed New Haven’s robust cycling community to Feiner’s efforts.
Travis Rabbit MED ’15, the Yale cycling team’s development coordinator, said that as one of the team’s sponsors, the Devil’s Gear provides the team with deals on bicycle purchases and also hosts free bicycle maintenance clinics.
Elif Erez ’15, the women’s captain of the cycling team, said that the shop has been an integral part of her cycling experience.
“At my first bike race, I remember members of the shop came all the way out to Rutgers to be our mechanical support, and I remember Matt cheering me on the whole way,” she said.
Rabbit said the loss of the Devil’s Gear would be devastating, not just for the Yale cycling team, but also for cyclists in the Greater New Haven area. The Devil’s Gear has let the team achieve a sense of continuity despite the yearly turnover of members, Rabbit added.
“We turn over every four years, but people like Matt have been around for ages,” he said. “Beyond a sponsorship, they’re able to provide a sounding board for incoming team leaders as well as individual bicyclists.”
Rabbit has been in contact with Feiner about organizing fundraising events to ensure the shop does not go out of business.
Feiner is also the co-founder of Elm City Cycling, a nonprofit group that advocates for improvements to the city’s biking infrastructure.