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Coates Cyclery takes one last ride

Everything changes, nothing is immune, but some places seem like they have always been there and always will. Coates Cyclery in Pomona is one of those institutions, and that makes it even more jarring that in a few weeks the 82-year-old bike shop will be gone.

Just outside Claremont’s city limit, Coates has been our local bike shop, where generations have purchased their first beach cruiser or discovered the love of more serious cycling. Coates owner Corey McCroskey announced the closing last Monday with a simple sign in the window, a quick note to people on the shop’s email list and a post on Facebook.

The last day of business is up in the air, but will be toward the end of February, as Mr McCroskey slowly winds down operations.

The news hit the local cycling community hard.  Coates has long been a gathering place for people who love bikes and riding. Whether you enjoy BMX, racing road bikes, technical trail riding on a mountain bike or just tooling around the neighborhood, Coates was the place where you could find just the right bicycle.

Mr. McCroskey sponsored numerous local charity events including the Plain Wrap Ride, which raises money for injured cyclists as well as to buy bicycles for children. He also gave away bicycles via a program through Claremont Rotary and Pomona Unified School District. The bicycles given to Emerson Elementary School in Pomona were used as an incentive for students to achieve perfect attendance.

Karlene Rahn has known Mr. McCroskey since they were both third grade students at Valencia Elementary School in Upland. She lives in Mira Loma but does all her riding in Claremont and La Verne, argely due to the close cycling community centered around Coates.

“It’s a terrible loss to the community. He has inspired so many to pursue the sport. He inspired me to get back on my bike,” Ms. Rahn said. “Everything I do on the bike is because he got me back into it, but I am not special; He does the same thing for anyone who wants to get into the sport.

“Every charity event he did, every penny went back into the community,”?Ms. Rahn continued. “Corey was always there ready to contribute and very humble—never wanted any recognition.”

Adair Coates opened the shop in 1934 on Second Street in downtown Pomona. About 20 years later he hired Wes Roth to be his manager, and by the 1960s Mr. Roth was the owner. In 1963 Mr. Roth and his father built the building on Towne Avenue and Foothill Boulevard in Pomona where Coates remains to this day.

Mr. Roth started the Coates culture of giving back to the community and conducted bicycle safety classes at local schools. He also hired Mr. McCroskey to work at Coates, providing the same boost that Mr. Coates had given him in the 1950s.

The once-crowded showroom is now about half-empty, as a clearance sale that started last week has cleared out much of the inventory. Many customers came by to get a good deal,  while others just wanted to reminisce.

Longtime Claremont resident Erik Pipens expressed what many are feeling about the shop’s demise. “It’s very sad and the end of an era. We thank Wes and Corey for being so great for so long. My love of bikes started with a Schwinn purchased from Coates.”

On Sunday, the weekly recreational ride that starts at Coates became a memorial ride to honor Mr. McCroskey and his legacy. Well over 100 people came out for the 35-mile ride, most sporting Coates jerseys. At the first regroup point, where the faster riders wait for the slower ones, the group posed for a photo and lauded Mr. McCroskey. Later, they posed for photos around the iconic sign on Foothill Boulevard.

“The community and public support has been tremendous, their sadness and disappointment, that has been the hardest for me,” Mr. McCroskey said before opening the doors on Wednesday.

“The bike industry is changing and several of my vendors decided to market to the consumer directly. It is just a different way to do business, but the blueprint of a 6,500-square-foot shop with a single owner doesn’t work any more,” he said.

Mr. McCroskey did say that a new bike shop may be going into the familiar building, but it will not be named Coates and he will not be involved.

“It was time for someone with a new or bigger vision to take over, and sometimes having a clean start makes more sense,” he said. “I hope the next shop that comes in here realizes the groundwork we have done, and hopefully will hire some of the guys.”

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com