By JOHN T. WARD
But unlike Laird’s Stationery, which is temporarily relocating to smaller quarters in the center after getting squeezed out of its home by a steep rent increase, Bike Haven is simply calling it quits, owner Cliff Wittenberg tells redbankgreen. And a rent hike is only the final nail in the tire.
Wittenberg said the shrunken profit margins on bicycles can’t support the high rent the new landlord wants to charge.
“They’re basically doubling the rent,” he said of Metro Commercial, a Philadelphia-based company that bought the 2.5-acre shopping center two years ago from local owners.
Other factors also come into play, he said. One is the long tail of the economic crash of 2008, which ended the profitability Bike Haven enjoyed for its first nine years of operation, Wittenberg said. The business never recovered, he said.
“It’s been a real struggle, to be honest,” he said, noting that a once-thriving bikewear section of the shop has all but vanished due to online competition. In recent years, the shop went from three year-round full-time employees to one who’s full-time in the summer only, he said.
Wittenberg said he tried selling the shop, to no avail, and looked for new space, but concluded that the profit margins on bikes won’t support the rents charged locally.
So come October 1, Bike Haven will be history, and the 62-year-old Little Silver resident, a part-time musician, will be looking for a new job.
News of the closing comes as Laird’s owners Bob and Rose Budnick raced to meet an August 31 deadline to vacate their space, a portion of which had served as a stationery shop since the early 1950s. Metro wouldn’t even permit the couple to renew the lease, they said.
Last week, as the cursive sign above their store was removed for preservation by Red Bank’s Fantastic Signs, the Budnicks were racing to pack their 3,600-square-foot business into the Candle Haven shop they also own just two doors away, which is half the size. And the lease is coming up on that space in March without any assurance it will be renewed, they said.
Faced with finding his first job outside the family business is “kind of traumatizing,” the 51-year-old Budnick told redbankgreen in July.