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Hollyloft owners to retire, close business Christmas Eve

Photo by Cameron Hurst Hollyloft Ski & Bike owner Les Johnson stands among his inventory of skis on Monday at his 600 Fairmount Ave. business.

JAMESTOWN — After 42 years of helping area bikers and skiers find the perfect equipment for their adventures, Hollyloft Ski & Bike owners Les and Cheryl Johnson believe the time has come to close up shop.

The Johnsons announced Monday that they will be retiring from their 600 Fairmount Ave. business, which itself will close at 4 p.m. on Dec. 24, in a post on its Facebook page.

“We just decided that it was time,” Les Johnson told The Post-Journal on Monday. “I’m 75 now so it’s probably past time. I like to say that the world has changed, retail has changed, people have changed and I have changed.”

Though COVID-19 has affected small businesses across the country, mostly due to statewide shutdowns to aid in the mitigation effort, bike retailers did see a bump in business in the early summer.

But, even though Johnson had planned to retire for a little over a year, he said another looming shutdown after the holidays did factor in the timing.

“This has been in the works for over a year,” he said. “But after Christmas, we’re going to get another COVID surge and I’d rather not take any chances with it.”

The Johnsons have owned the business since 1978, starting The Ski Warren in Warren, Pa., before opening the West Ellicott storefront in 1984. During that time, Johnson said it’s “the people” they’re going to miss the most.

“Everybody always says it’s the people you help out and your patrons — that’s probably it,” he said, pointing out the Team Hollyloft biking club that will continue even beyond his and his wife’s retirement.

“We’ve gotten so many good new friends out of it and they’ve gotten new friends out of it … it’s a social event, actually,” he said. “We’re going to miss them, they’re going to miss us. They depend on us for repairs and equipment.”

Johnson also said he has enjoyed using his position as a business owner to give back to the community, noting that a partnership in which proceeds from used or recovered bike sales are donated to the Chautauqua County Humane Society and New Leash On Life has also been a highlight.

“I’ve done over $23,000 dollars this year for the rescues that we help out,” he said. “I’m very grateful to people who have donated bikes and we’ve been able to sell and glean some money to give to these charities. I’m hoping next spring that we can continue that.”

In their Facebook post, the Johnsons referred to the decision to close as “a chapter closing” and “not necessarily a goodbye.”

“We are actively planning new beginnings as we go dormant for a while to ride out the storm,” the post read.

“You never know what happens down the line,” Johnson added. “The world is always changing. There might be something coming. We’ll just have to see.”

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