A variety of news clippings lay spread out on the countertop at Twin Fork Bicycles in downtown Riverhead, showcasing examples of the business featured in local media throughout its history.
Nick Attisano, the bike shop’s owner, proudly holds up the oldest clipping when his first storefront opened in 2007 in Polish Town. The photo, which ran in the News-Review, shows Mr. Attisano kneeling next to his 3-year-old daughter, Mary. His youngest daughter, Grace, then just shy of 2, stands to his left. In the background, a grand opening sign hangs in between bunting on the building, just below the Twin Fork Bicycles logo.
“That’s me!” Mary said Saturday morning, pointing to the photo as she stood next to her father. Now 16 and having recently received her learner’s permit, Mary has been Mr. Attisano’s go-to employee this past summer. She grew up in the business and her father pointed out how she knows more about bicycles than just about any other teenager.
Just as Mary had been there that day for the grand opening, she was there Saturday as the clock wound down on what would be the final weekend for Twin Fork Bicycles.
As of Oct. 1, the business will close for good, closing another chapter to a downtown business.
So how did Mr. Attisano arrive at the decision to close his popular bike shop for good?
“Let me tell you a little story …” he said during a recent phone call.
On July 2, town officials held a press conference in the riverfront parking lot to announce a plan to purchase three buildings in order to pursue the creation of a town square. Acquiring the three buildings, all owned by Riverhead Enterprises, would be the next step toward bringing Riverhead back “as a regional destination for Long Island residents and visitors,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said that afternoon.
The plan included demolishing the building that has served as the home to Twin Fork Bicycles since 2012.
While the bicycle shop’s physical structure would be no more, officials said that July afternoon that they would work with the owner to find a new home in Riverhead.
That was news to Mr. Attisano, who only learned of the building’s fate when he saw an email with a link to a news story detailing the town’s plan. Weeks would pass with no word from town officials.
“As far as the town helping me relocate, I only got that phone call about three weeks ago,” he said. “And it was from a councilperson I know. I said, ‘You’re kind of forcing me out of town for this town square.’ “
Mr. Attisano, who’s soon to turn 50, said he knew he had little leeway. He operated on a month-to-month lease with the building owners and had no say in its sale.
By the time Mr. Attisano received that phone call, he already decided it would be time to close for good rather than try to relocate somewhere else in town.
As Mr. Attisano viewed it, the town was forcing out a recreation store to make room for recreation.
“I was asked to be part of the revitalization, now I’m collateral damage.”Nick Attisano
And the news particularly stung given how his shop had been celebrated when he first moved to downtown. When the business had outgrown its Polish Town location, Mr. Attisano sought to move onto Main Street. He found open arms in Ray Pickersgill of the Business Improvement District and Sean Walter, the former town supervisor.
“Be part of the downtown revitalization,” Mr. Attisano said he was told as a sales pitch.
The building at 121 E. Main St. appeared a perfect location. Located across from The Suffolk Theater — which hadn’t yet reopened — the building had ample parking in the back, so people could easily transport bicycles to and from their vehicles. Other new businesses were also in the works.
“I moved into a boomtown,” he said.
Mr. Attisano said he never knew the building with 5,400 square feet, was for sale.
“It’s amazing how history doesn’t look back at itself,” he said. “I was asked to be part of the revitalization, now I’m collateral damage.”
While losing the storefront was the driving force behind the decision to close, Mr. Attisano said other reasons also factored in. The pandemic created a unique situation that has led to a boom for the bike business, but also a national shortage with near-empty warehouses. He was told the business may not normalize for another two years. He had been able to pay off much of the debt tied to the business and with the slower winter months approaching, the timing was best to pull the plug now.
“If there was ever a time to do it, this is it,” he said.
Business continued to be strong this summer, so Mr. Attisano sold through much of his inventory without the need of a flashy “going-out-of-business” promotion. In recent weeks he began to let some of his longtime customers in on the news. And he recently hung a banner outside the store announcing the Oct. 1 closing.
Since then, surprised customers have stopped by to thank Mr. Attisano and reminisce.
“The outpouring of love has been immense,” he said. “The thank you notes and gifts, people I’ve become friends with over the years. It’s almost sad that you have to go out of business to feel the love.”
Now Mr. Attisano, who lives in Medford, is thinking about the next chapter of his life and hoping he can find somewhere that can be a career option for him for the next 15-20 years. He’s excited to get out on the trails at Enterprise Park at Calverton or ride at the beach and enjoy some biking himself. Owning a retail store has meant long hours and a lot of weekend work.
Before the business closed for good, Mr. Attisano decided to splurge on himself and buy a new mountain bike.
“I’m trying to kick back my life to a simpler time,” he said. “I’ve been in the bike business since I was a teenager.”