Plans are in motion to transform an empty fire station in South Anchorage into a bike shop and new hub for events.
Chain Reaction Cycles, a bike shop located off Huffman Road near Old Seward Highway, will move just across Huffman to the city's old Fire Station 9 space, nearly doubling the shop's retail footprint.
James Stull, owner of the shop, bought the old station this week from the Municipality of Anchorage for $1.2 million. He hopes to move into the new spot in September.
The building was originally slated to become a liquor store. Stull was outbid, "Price Is Right"-style, when Liquor Stores USA North Inc., the company that owns Brown Jug, put in an offer for just $5 more than his $1.2 million bid.
As it turned out, a deed restriction on the land said the property could "never be used" for "any liquor dispensaries." The liquor store company looked into removing that rule, said Robin Ward, executive director of the municipality's real estate department. When that seemed unlikely, she said, the company rescinded its contract and it went to Stull, the next highest bidder.
With three big, red garage doors that let natural light pour in over the concrete floor, the location still has some of the trappings of a fire station, like cubbies along the wall and a hose tower room.
Stull is planning a wide-open floor space for the shop's clothing, tires, accessories and pricey bikes of all kinds, plus an area that he plans to lease out for a juice bar. Stull also wants to host spin classes and envisions the new Chain Reaction Cycles becoming a hub for sport events that happen around town.
"The event thing is, frankly, out of control, because spring and summer is so short," he said. "You could do an event almost every other day, between running and cycling."
Chain Reaction has leased its current 3,400-square-foot spot, a more cramped space with colorful walls and tools hanging behind the register, for 11 years. A big attraction of the new 7,000-square-foot location is the visibility from Huffman Road, which Stull hopes will draw more people.
"Some people are excited; some people scratch their head and say, 'Why did you buy that building instead of, like, buying something else?'" Stull said. "Commercial real estate in Anchorage is really expensive … There's some lots on the south side of town that are pretty pricey, and then I'd have to build."
Lately, he said, his business has been steady despite much doomsday talk about Alaska's economy, which is in a recession. While the shop is set to grow in terms of space, he doesn't plan to add to Chain Reaction's product lineup.
"Just because you double your space doesn't mean you double your sales," he said.
Steve Beardsley, president of the Old Seward/Oceanview Community Council, said the community was enthusiastic about Stull landing the building at 1148 Huffman Road, rather than a liquor store.
"He's outgoing, he wants to give back to the community, he's got some great ideas," Beardsley said. "We're pleased to have the bid go to him."
The Anchorage Fire Department completed construction on a new Station 9 near Rabbit Creek Elementary School last fall.
Stull said he financed the deal with a loan from Northrim Bank. In addition to the retail side of his bike business relocating, he'll also be moving warehouse operations for his bike company 9:Zero:7 over to the old fire station. He plans to do some remodeling, painting and polishing of the floors but doesn't plan to alter the space too much.
"You'll definitely be able to tell it's an old fire station," he said.