Shining a Spotlight on Wantagh Businesses: Brands Cycle and Fitness


Ashley McCarthy

Brands has seen an uptick in bike purchases as the pandemic has hit Wantagh.

Jennifer Rosen, Reporter

Amidst the pandemic, as public transportation was limited and gyms were closed, cycling emerged as a safe and convenient alternative. It allowed numerous Wantagh community members the opportunity to stay healthy and help alleviate the irritable sense of cabin-fever that people have felt during quarantine. With the beautiful spring and summer weather, it was often hard to resist a nice bike ride around the neighborhood to admire the views that Wantagh has to offer. Brands Cycle and Fitness, a Long Island bike store located at 1966 Wantagh Avenue, has been a place where many local kids, including myself, have gotten their first bikes. In order to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the biking industry, Brands’ Office Administrator Ashley McCarthy was interviewed about her experiences doing business during a global pandemic.


Brands is a family-owned and operated business that has been a part of the Wantagh community since 1954. The business was started by Albert Sirota and is currently being run by his son Gary and grandson Daniel. When asked what inspired the owner to start Brands, McCarthy described how, “Albert Sirota was a manager at other stores and from there, he gained enough knowledge and experience to open his own store. He actually started with luggage and clocks, and then he started taking in toys and snowblowers. Then, bicycles came in and he stuck with it, and it took off. He always wanted to provide everything and anything for customers so that’s why Brands is the name, because it carries so many different things.” The store provides customers with all their bike-related needs including accessories, fitness equipment, in-house servicing on equipment, repairs, group rides, lessons, and more. The business has always been a part of many community members’ memories of their biking experiences. When discussing where most of Brands’ business comes from, McCarthy explains, “We do have the core enthusiasts who we know all by name, but then a lot of people have just always been coming here. We have been finding that a lot of people got their bikes here when they were kids and now that they have kids, they come back.” Family run and family received, Brands has always held a very special place in community members hearts.

Before the Pandemic:

On a typical summer day before the pandemic, Brands would open Monday-Friday at 9:30am and give customers the opportunity to freely walk around the store and try out any products. McCarthy discusses how, “We always allowed people to come. We would keep the door open and you could come in whenever. We allowed people to come in through our entrance on Wantagh Avenue. We would always have sales control where customers could roam around the building, and we would make sure they were being helped… We had anywhere between 50 to 100 employees, and I would say an average of each department having at least 10 to 15 employees.” Despite being a singular location on Long Island, Brands has had an incredible impact on the biking industry and the community at large. McCarthy states, “We used to have Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts coming in to learn about bicycle safety and how to change a flat. We would also have bicycle courses so people would come in, and we would have two of our top mechanics teaching them how to do specific things on the bike like common things you could fix on your bike at home,” said McCarthy. Brands would also sponsor and offer its services to participants at many biking tournaments including Race Awesome and the Long Island Triathlon. “If anyone needed a sag wagon on a ride, we would basically follow the riders throughout their ride in case they ran into any issues with their bikes. We would be there to assist them in getting back up and riding.” Brands was always the kind of place where you could walk in anytime and be greeted by the kind and welcoming staff. 

During the Shut-Down/The World Opening Up Again:

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, many business owners wondered if their business would be deemed essential or non-essential and would be allowed to stay open to the public. McCarthy stated, “We were considered essential at that time because we were considered a form of transportation for people who commuted to work by cycling. We noticed a pick-up right away as the CDC encouraged outdoor cycling.” The CDC permitted biking as an outside activity while also closing gyms in attempts to lower the infection rate which, in turn, had a huge impact on Brands. In asking how sales have been impacted by these guidelines, McCarthy describes how, “We were sold out of bikes relatively quickly. I think this whole thing started in March of last year, and I think we honestly sold out by the end of April. We had nothing to offer. It was crazy. We were also selling out our fitness equipment like crazy – treadmills, ellipticals; everything was just going… It never really got slow either. It got to a more comfortable pace would be the best way to describe it towards the end of January but again, we are picking back up where we now have to have a line outside just to limit the amount of people inside the building at the same time.” 

The high demand for bikes has led to many suppliers struggling to keep up. “Distributors were having a hard time because everything shut down overseas as well. Manufacturers weren’t actually able to manufacture everything, and they fell behind. It was just tough to source the materials needed to assemble the bikes so that we could get them up and running. The demand was way higher than what they were able to produce. It’s still tough getting bikes even now. The manufacturers have actually increased the price because it was harder for them to source the materials. In turn, we have had to do price increases on the bikes whereas we never had to do any price increases for bicycle services, and we have always offered a layaway program.”

In addition to the CDC health guidelines of mask wearing and increased cleaning of work stations, Brands had to institute other measures to ensure social distancing while customers were inside the store. “We have a 1 to 1 ratio so we do keep a line outside, and we are allowing in 1 group or person per sales associate in order to limit the amount of people in the store at the same time. We have what we call ‘door duty’ where someone stands outside and asks what the customers need, and then they’ll delegate where the customers should go in order to decrease the amount of people inside the store at the same time.” Brands also offers customers both drop off and pick-up services for all their bike maintenance and technical needs. “Mechanics always had their own set of tools so that was never really an issue. Each station allows for 2 people to be working at the same time, but we added space to be every other station just to ensure social distancing, and a lot of mechanics were building from home so that also decreased the amount of people in that room at the same time.” In dealing with home servicing for bike repairs, McCarthy describes how, “Brands would always attempt to accommodate to whatever the customer felt most comfortable doing. We would set up an appointment time with the person and then depending on the services that needed to be done, for example, if they needed their fitness equipment serviced whether that be a treadmill or a stationary bike, we would ask that people in the house to wear a mask and stay out of the work space until we leave. We would also do whatever would make the customer feel more comfortable by wearing gloves and putting on shoe covers.”

Although many businesses across the country were forced to lay off employees, Brands was fortunately able to avoid this. “We were able to keep everyone on payroll, but Brands also offered employees the opportunity to work from home. They were very accommodating with that, but it depended on what your role was. The company has a lot of the back-end work that needs to go on such as keeping the website up to date and selling items on Amazon. We would deliver bikes to mechanics’ houses so they could work from home and build the bikes. Overall though, I would honestly say it never really got slow.”

With the biking industry having what can be seen as a biking boom, it will be interesting to see where the future of cycling will go. One thing that is guaranteed is that Brands Cycle and Fitness will continue to have an important role in the Wantagh community for all cycling and home fitness needs. “We are here for you,” Brands says on their Instagram, “Cycling is a simple solution to some of the most complicated problems in the world.” The company is and always will be committed to helping customers enjoy the benefits of cycling and fitness.