Is Buehler tacking right? Velo Cult shutters; retail-bar model stumbles.

Jason E. Kaplan

The OB take on news headlines.

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After gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler told conservative radio host Lars Larson this week that he would vote to repeal the state’s sanctuary law, many Oregonians are wondering if the Republican candidate is swinging right. 

Not so, said Buehler’s spokeswoman Monica Wroblewski. “Knute remains a moderate, independent voice for all Oregonians,” she said in an email.

Jim Moore, a political science professor at Pacific University, thinks otherwise. 

Aside from any actual policy stances, Buehler could be trying to lock up support among all Republicans, Moore said. “Remember, more than a quarter of primary voters went with the Trump-like candidate Sam Carpenter, and Buehler has been loudly against Trump on several issues.”

Related: Buehler, Buehler…Buehler?

Although political candidates tend to tack further right (or left) during primary season, there is precedent for moderate Republicans in Oregon to craft more conservative appeals during a general election. In 2006 Ron Saxton ran an entire campaign that seemed geared to firming up the Republican base — especially social conservatives, Moore said.

“Since he was a pro-choice Portland Republican, this was a bit of a surprise.”

The strategy failed. Saxton was beaten handily by incumbent Ted Kulongoski. “A candidate cannot win in Oregon with a firm hold on the entire Republican party,” said Moore. “It is simply too small a portion of the electorate, and get probably get 20% or so of Republicans.”  

The Portland bike community is reeling from the news that the popular Hollywood District retailer and community gathering space Velo Cult is shutting down its brick-and-mortar location to focus on e-commerce. In a statement, owner Sky Boyer said complying with city bar regulations proved too onerous a task.

Bar or no bar, how hard is it to make a go of a bike shop in Portland?

“It’s a dynamic landscape to be sure,” said Kelly Aicher, co-owner and COO of Bike Gallery, a retailer with six locations in the metro area. 

Skyrocketing rents are the biggest challenge. A year ago, Bike Gallery was forced to relocate its Woodstock store to Sellwood-Moreland because the building owner had tripled the cost of the lease. The Woodstock space, occupied by a bike shop for 52 years, is now a credit union.

“Most retail spaces out there are $22-$38 a square foot,” said Aicher. “That’s lot for a bike business.”

Bike Gallery does have a growing online business, but Aicher declined to reveal specifics.

Velo Cult isn’t the only retail outlet to run into challenges operating a bar.  

After adding alcohol service last winter, the iconic record shop Music Millennium is serving only 10-12 drinks a day, said owner Terry Currier.

“We thought we might serve more. Our goal really was to get up to selling 50 a day.”  The bar doesn’t have tables or chairs, deterring some customers, Currier acknowledged.

Oreogn Business featured Velo Cult and Music Millennium in a December 2017 article about retailers adding food and drink to lure shoppers.

Related: Cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson predicted the future of retail: Less stuff, plenty of food and coding

The model does not appear to be a panacea.

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