Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

What: WebCyclery & WebSkis

Pictured: Kevin Gorman

Employees: 14

Address: 550 SW Industrial Way, Suite 150

When Kevin Gorman moved to Bend in 1996 with the intention of doing a lot of mountain biking and selling bikes online, Google hadn’t been formed, and social media hadn’t been conceived.

So the e-commerce business, WebCyclery, that Gorman launched from his garage was pretty simple. The e-commerce site is still around, specializing in a type of stunt bike known as trial bikes and high-end nordic ski gear. But its sales have been dwarfed by Gorman’s physical store at The Box Factory, WebCyclery & WebSkis.

“It’s more fun,” Gorman said. “Getting to know your customers, instead of just a voice on the phone sometimes. They’re all usually pretty happy because they’re playing with their toys.”

Gorman is so invested in the brick-and-mortar business, he decided to become his own landlord. He bought The Old Stone Church at 157 NW Franklin Ave. in February for just under $1.2 million. He plans to move the shop there soon. He doesn’t plan to make any changes to the former church-turned-entertainment venue.

Gorman spoke to The Bulletin about the evolution of his bike shop. His responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: Were you always looking to buy a building?

A: I always wanted to. I thought I was going to be priced out of the Bend market, the way things were going. I think it came up at the right time and at a price that was barely within my range. Luckily the SBA, Small Business Administration, came through, as far as the loan goes.

Q: Some of your competitors emphasize their proximity to Phil’s Trail. Did you consider trying to move closer?

A: I looked out at NorthWest Crossing. The rents just kept getting higher and higher as I was negotiating. I realized if I was going to pay that much in rent, and I still had an opportunity to buy. Ultimately, down the road, as rents keep going up in Bend, which I’m sure they’re going to, it’s going to be harder and harder to survive, I think.

Q: You seem pretty enthusiastic about the fact that your new property has its own parking lot. Why?

A: I don’t know if you found parking this morning. It’s usually packed out there. And come summertime, once all the patios are open, it’s terrible for my business. I’m sure it’s great for the bars to have all those people walking around.

Q: What did WebCyclery sell back in the late 1990s?

A: We ended up selling a lot of Timbuk2 messenger bags. I had a business partner. We figured out how to make it so people could order custom bags. We were selling more bags than REI was selling. It was awesome.

After about a year and a half (Timbuk2) said, ‘Oh, we can do this ourselves.’ That was 95 percent of our business at the time. Then we started selling more niche products, and it started working all right.

Q: What prompted you to open a physical store, and why didn’t you change the name?

A: We moved out of my garage in 2000. Some of our vendors, they started requiring, you have to have an actual, physical location. We opened right next door to this building. Industrial Way was not a real popular, well-driven road, but people kept finding us. I didn’t think about changing (the name) at the time. Now we’ve got enough name recognition throughout the country; we’ve got plenty of people coming into town, ‘Oh yeah, WebCyclery. I’ve been ordering stuff from them for 15 years.’ They’ll stop in because of that.

Q: How do you keep up with changes in online marketing?

A: We’re discussing ways to do that better and increase that side of the business. I think we can increase it back to where we had it before pretty easily. I think we have enough name recognition and know-how, we just need to put a little bit of money and effort into it.

—Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com