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Business & Real Estate

Temp bike shop owner wants to jolt downtown into cycling

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier Jeff Selzer, owner of 359 State, the first bike shop in downtown Los Altos in nearly 30 years, showcases the Bike Arc, which he co-invented.

Jeff Selzer isn’t trying to take over Los Altos’ cycling world with his new downtown bike shop at 359 State St.

Or is he?

That depends on what you’re really asking, because from a profit standpoint, unlike many merchants, he’s relatively indifferent.

“All this is,” he said, outstretching his arms in the spacious yet minimally stocked 2,375-square-foot room, “is, ‘Hey, remember? Bikes!’ … I want this to be successful, but if I’m only making downtown lively and vibrant, that’s great.”

Selzer, a 52-year-old semipro cyclist who also manages Palo Alto Bicycle, plans to operate in town for only six months – maybe a year at most. To him, it would be a victory if avid cyclists regularly use his space to convene before and after rides. If the tamer two-wheelers begin to recognize cycling’s utilitarian value, such as for grocery shopping or getting a haircut, that’s as good as dollar signs to him.

And because the genial Mountain View resident, who lives just across Los Altos’ border on Springer Road, considers downtown his own, he wants it to thrive. Promoting cycling, he contends, is one way to do that.

“Cycling in Los Altos benefits the whole community,” he said, citing studies that report that every $1 million invested in bike-centric street infrastructure projects, like bike lanes, yields approximately 11 jobs. Traditional street projects provide only six.

“It slows down the world,” he said of cycling, contrasting it to zipping by downtown stores in a car. “It supports existing businesses” and can create more retail jobs.

But business in Palo Alto keeps him busy, which is largely why he’s only in Los Altos for the short haul.

“The landlords (Passerelle Investment Co.) approached us and asked if we wanted a permanent location,” he said. “No, I don’t need another permanent shop. But temporary? Yes, I can do that.”

While passersby might notice an inventory that pales in comparison to the larger bike retailers, Selzer said those can sometimes be overwhelming, despite his stake in one of the largest retailers on the Peninsula.

And besides, where would people hang out if it were stocked wall-to-wall with bikes?

359 State is located at, well, 359 State St. The shop sells basic, midlevel bikes ranging from approximately $500 to $800 and welcomes anyone who wants to hang out.

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