Andy Thornton is a familiar face when it comes to bike mechanics in Seaside, so much so that he is known around town as “Bike Shop Andy.”
After spending more than two decades in the industry, he’s taken his trade to the next level by opening A’s Bike Shop on the corner of South Roosevelt Drive and Avenue B.
“I’ve turned wrenches here for a long time,” Thornton said. “It’s getting people to know that I’m back.”
His past experience includes more than 25 years working at the Prom Bike Shop before stepping away from the industry for a few years and pursuing other jobs.
“Now that I’m a little bit older and my kids are gone, I needed to do what I wanted to do,” he said.
While Thornton primarily runs the shop, his wife, Michelle, also pitches in behind the scenes with ordering parts, bookkeeping and managing customers.
A’s Bike Shop, which opened in January, is a full-service bike shop that sells bicycles, parts and accessories in addition to handling repairs. Thornton’s specialty service areas include high-end and electric bicycles.
Listening to the customer
Both Thornton and his wife are longtime residents of Seaside. They feel their knowledge of the local area has made it easier to establish the business.
“If you do good work in a small town, it comes back to you,” Thornton said.
The clientele he’s cultivated so far is a blend of recreational riders and daily commuters. Recreation is multifaceted as well, since some people prefer riding on the Promenade and sidewalks in town while others take to logging roads and mountain trails and the Oregon Coast Bike Route on U.S. Highway 101.
At the end of the day, Thornton said, “I don’t care what you’re riding, I just want you to get out and have a good time.”
His No. 1 priority is customer service and doing what he can to ensure customers leave satisfied. He’s happy to offer advice to novice riders but he also doesn’t let a sales perspective dictate his interaction with clients.
“The biggest part of customer service is listening to the needs of the people,” he said. “It’s better to address what (customers) rightfully need rather trying to up-sale them or sell them on something else.”
After suffering an injury, he’s not able to mountain bike on the trails like he used to. Now, he’s channeling his passion “through my tools and keeping everyone else going.” He’s also a big supporter of the North Coast Trail Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving and sustaining mountain biking opportunities on the North Coast for residents and visitors alike.
Michelle Thornton doesn’t come from the industry — in fact, she’s still working full time at the Mo’s restaurant in Seaside. However, she is a long-time bicycle rider, and she says, “I’m learning more about it as we’re going along.”
A struggling industryWhile A’s Bike Shop was able to remain open as an essential business throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Thornton is facing other challenges. The company experienced growth up until last month when they leveled off, he said, as it’s become difficult to find the specialty products he needs for repairs, as well as new bikes.
“I can’t get inventory because the bike world is ravished,” he said. “The whole country is unable to get what they need.”
Since the issue trickles back to manufacturing and the delay in getting products from overseas, there isn’t much business owners can do individually except wait for more product. Thornton is doing what he can in the meantime with common repair parts or putting off certain projects until he can get the items he needs.
A’s Bike Shop has also seen an increase in demand for labor to repair older models that people are pulling from storage and bringing in to make due for now.
“We’ve stayed steady with repairs,” Michelle Thornton said, adding, the rest of it “is a waiting game.”