For the record, The Roll Up bike shop & art space has gone through a lot to serve as a nice gem in the heart of Fruitvale.
The Roll Up was built on a strong foundation of DIY ethics, multiple incomes, and a hefty serving of Thomas the Tank Engine “I think I can” mentality. In the beginning, there were a lot of great events thrown on Fridays and Saturdays, and yet the shop would still open up on Sundays to sell 2nd hand goods, art, and bikes. It was a second job for me, and made for 7 day a week time commitment. After a couple years, this became problematic and I quit my corporate job, narrowed the focus onto bicycles, and ventured into the psychotic realm of a small business owner. I filed for a business license and started paying taxes. (A lot of taxes.)
As the owner, I have seen the shop grow from the ground up in the past 5 years. After an unconventional start as a multi-use art space, I converted it to a retail bike shop in an area with very few retail shoppers. Over the years I have watched it go through the various stages of a “brick and mortar” business, all while paying out the nose to the city, state, and federal government.
To pay the bills, I tried many angles to keep cash flow coming in the door, enlisted in as many guerrilla marketing techniques as legally possible, utilized social media, encouraged word of mouth, created promotional strategies, provided free tune ups at local events, and teamed up with as many local organizations to build a network and support bicycling culture in every way possible. It was easy to get out and be part of the bicycling community – the hard part
It has been extremely tough to make this “small” business profitable enough to keep on chugging along. Built from scratch, with no investors and no loans, I created a “fun place to work”. But as a fellow small business owner once told me, the next logical step would have been to create a place that “worked for me”. In the end, I was able to realize that was impossible in the current commercial location.
I have made the gradual move to New York over the past two years and have sought out new opportunities in life. During this time I have been able to remove myself from the situation and see the business for what it was. From the outside, I was able to compare the expenses vs. the income, and it quickly became clear that the profit margin was so slim it was an uphill battle. I also tried to find someone to manage and eventually own The Roll Up. But as it turns out, it takes a very unique and talented individual with the right incentives to run a business in a light industrial / low income area.
All business aside, it has always been a pleasure to bring something new to East Oakland, and contribute to the arts and bicycling community. It never got boring to help someone out who was dead broke but absolutely needed his or her bicycle for transportation. It was always nice to teach someone, especially the eager youth, about bicycles and to fuel his or her passion. It always made me happy to hear someone compliment the shop on its décor, its quality work and its dedication to the community. It was very cool to be part of an edgy, dirty, scene and to add to it.
It would have been impossible without the help of neighbors and our community. Many thanks to all volunteers, employees and interns that helped make it possible. All allies, friend, and families that went out of their way to stay in touch and offer advice, assistance, and guidance – I am forever grateful. I cannot even begin to name names but I look forward to saying it in person over the next 2 weeks as we liquidate, close down and move out of the Vulcan location. I encourage all you good folks to come down and help us say goodbye!
Everything is for sale, starting this Friday the 13th at noon. If there was ever anything you may have wanted from The Roll Up, now is the time to get it at a great price. If you stop by you are going to get some great deals just in time for the holidays.
I am now selling off all bicycles, parts, infrastructure, decorations, and furnishings. For those that are eager, I am available at all hours to set up an appointment before the sale starts.
The Roll Up bike shop