After about 55 years in business, the Montauk Bike Shop will be closing its doors for good before the end of December.
The decision to close was not an easy one for its owner, bicycle guru Chris Pfund. The reason he made the heart-wrenching decision to close (“I love this business,” he said at the shop on Thanksgiving) was a matter of dollars and cents. While customers might know the store for some of the high-end bikes on display, and for the repair shop in back, the business itself was founded back in the early 1960s to rent bikes to visitors to Montauk. That market has vanished in the past few years, as resorts across the hamlet are now supplying their guests with bikes.
Income from bike sales and repairs do not come close to making up for the loss of rental revenue, he said. It was the rentals that, in turn, paid the rent on the shop, which is a family-owned property. Pfund put off the decision to close as long as he could, wanting to get a look inside the numbers. By the end of October, with the 2018 summer season numbers in, the fate of the shop was sealed.
Pfund’s Hardware first started renting bikes to Montauk visitors in 1963. “We had a fleet of 50 bikes,” Pfund remembered. In the 1980s, he took over running the shop from his brother Kurt Pfund.
Bikes weren’t the only thing Pfund rented. “We were the first ones to rent surfboards, scuba tanks, the first to do t-shirts, chairs, umbrellas . . .” In 1999, the hardware store side of the business closed, and it became all bikes all the time for Pfund. A couple of years later, the building was ravaged by fire. “There was nothing left,” he said. He built the business back up.
Soon, he will be locking up the shop for the last time. The mom-and-pop stores that were once the norm in downtown Montauk are now the exception. But, Pfund says, Montauk is, and always has been, an evolving place. The idea of keeping Montauk as it was in some imaginary past is anathema to Pfund. “A lot of people complain about how terrible things are, the way they are going. I don’t feel that way. Every 10 years, it is a completely different game,” he said.