Hesperia’s Hi-Desert Bikes will close in August, sending owner to retire earlier than expected
Hi-Desert Bikes – a trading venture in Hesperia for over 30 years – will close in August, and for store owner George Puleikis, retirement has come sooner than expected.
Puleikis and his family have run the store since the year after they moved to Hesperia in 1990.
Puleikis said the inventory pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – combined with the increase in easy online shopping in recent years – were the main deciding factors in its decision to close Hi-Desert doors. Bikes.
“There is no product, the manufacturers are just out of everything… the warehouses are completely empty,” Puleikis said. “With the current state of affairs, I think this is the perfect opportunity for me to close the chapter and move on with my life, and not die at the counter, even though I loved my business.”
it works in the family
When Puleikis and his family moved to Hesperia three decades ago, he was giving the High Desert a second chance. When he was 20, he built his first house in Hesperia on land chosen by his mother, Lorraine Puleikis. But then they moved to the Los Angeles area with George Puleikis’ two newly born children, Michelle and Scott, for a better job. There, George Puleikis did auto mechanic work for doctors and celebrities.
Eventually, Lorraine Puleikis suggested that they move to what was then a retirement community in Hesperia, a quiet place spacious enough to raise a family. After moving, Puleikis saw an empty niche for cycling equipment in the area – and no one wanted to fill it.
“The bicycle shop was born out of a lack of products. We would go to a store and it was like ‘No we don’t have it’… People back then weren’t hungry enough, ”Puleikis said. “I was like, hey, I can do a better job at this… I (thought), well, I’m either going to fall in my face or I’ll be okay with it.”
But Michelle Puleikis remembers a slightly different impetus for the store. Shortly after their move, at age 8, Michelle broke the frame of her bike in a jump. When the family went to a local bike shop to purchase a lighter model, they were told they would have to wait two months for an order to be submitted.
“We were sitting at dinner… and I said, ‘Why don’t we just open our own bike shop? “And that’s kind of where it all started,” said Michelle Puleikis.
By the mid-90s, Hi-Desert Bikes owned up to 600 bikes and 140 skateboards. Pulekis was able to fund a BMX racing team to have Michelle and Scott compete for five years. They went to competitions in California and Nevada on the weekends. Michelle and Scott have raced for over 10 years.
“I remember going to Las Vegas (for competitions) and my dad was always there to make memories along the way,” said Michelle Puleikis. “A lot of people were getting hotels, and I’m like, ‘Why don’t we take a hotel? And he said, “We are camping.” And we would camp out on the track and stay awake as late as possible… And when we were staying in hotels with our teammates, my dad would buy us a block of rooms.
But the store’s success had serious consequences typical of a small community. In public, Michelle Puleikis and her father were inseparable from their roles as representatives of their company.
“We’re still on the clock,” Michelle Puleikis said. “We’re going to have dinner and someone will come and say ‘George, I haven’t seen you in ages!’ And he’ll stop eating and talk to you for 20 minutes.
When Lorraine Puleikis passed away in 2009, Michelle Puleikis said the dynamics of the business had changed.
“We were open seven days a week… When my grandmother passed away, (George) said, ‘I finally have to close (once a week)” because she always told him, “We have to close one day a week. week and have a day with the family, because we are always there.
To change the channel
For the past 30 years, Hi-Desert Bikes has served all of High Desert’s customers – from kids with money to burn to the most financially desperate.
“One family, I remember, was very young. They had a bunch of kids. They didn’t have a car. They only had bikes. And I took care of these kids for years and years, ”said George Puleikis. “They were one of my first clients … They were pushing strollers when I was 15.”
More typical were the packs of six to ten teens or pre-teens who spent hours together in the store.
“It’s a children’s dream store,” he said. “You really don’t have to say, ‘If you don’t have the money, get out.’ You can hang out here all day, I don’t care. Enjoy. Because a customer is a customer for life, not just once.
George Puleikis has seen his business philosophy pay off in the long run. The kids who entered Hi-Desert Bikes as customers decades ago have since brought their own kids to the store.
“I have had such a ball over those years, being surrounded by children,” he said. “It just kept me young, I was able to relate to the kids and keep my ear to the ground… If you can win the kids, you did.”
But while the enthusiasm for cycling in the High Desert has survived and passed on to the next generation, the cycling culture they inherited has certainly changed. In more ways than one, George Puleikis identified the internet as a major influence on BMX.
“If you get six kids up at a time, that’s very rare. Most of the time it’s two or three, ”he said. “Now kids are so drawn to the Internet and video games… there aren’t that many people doing the same. “
While the internet has given children more variety in their choice of games at the expense of in-person socialization, it has had a similar effect on the bicycle equipment market. The variety of prices and products offered by online retailers has had a major impact on in-store sales, according to George Puleikis.
“They will come out for a dollar. We must therefore have very competitive prices, ”he said. “I try to be everything for everyone. And that’s what you have to do in this market… Actually, I don’t think a bike shop can just be a bike shop. You have to do everything else.
And while the pressure to keep pace has prompted many smaller stores to expand their inventory, a business model based on instant gratification means that any blow to international manufacturing and distribution channels has far-reaching impacts.
“Instead of getting 200 of something that I would normally have, we get maybe 20 or less,” Michelle Puleikis said. “Before (distributors) would say, ‘Order as much as you want. We will send them to you. But now they have almost nothing… There are 30 people at our door who want black handles, and we have five in stock.
End of the road
“I’ve kind of tried to deal with it already, and I’m just like, ‘Who are we without the bike shop? Said Michelle Puleikis. “What am I going to do now that (George) isn’t the familiar High Desert face sitting behind the counter?” “
Michelle and George Puleikis both said the family would most likely travel, as they did when Michelle and Scott were on the BMX team.
“He worked so hard,” she said of her father. “When he worked as a mechanic, he worked so many hours. He was coming home and our grandmother would have put us to bed already. He always took the time to come in and, even though I was asleep, woke me up just to tuck me in.
For a man who still comes on his days off to process orders, no one really knows what the transition will look like.
“I don’t think the High Desert could have survived without it,” said Diane Godden, who became a longtime friend of the Puleiki after shopping at Hi-Desert Bikes. “I don’t even think we have another bike shop in Hesperia.”
Susan Monaghan is a freelance reporter for the Daily Press and other Southern California media.