Bike thefts could force us out of business, warns boss of hire firm East Coast Adventure
A Co Down mountain bike centre owner whose firm has been hit twice by thieves in a month has warned his business is at risk.
Rostrevor business East Coast Adventure was targeted by the gang for the second time this weekend.
Thieves made off with 13 mountain bikes which had been ordered to replace 20 bikes stolen less than four weeks before.
The thieves managed to get into the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Centre by forcing open the metal shutters using cutting equipment before forcing the bikes out through the small gap in the shuttering.
Ian Cumming (34) who runs the business with his brother and sister-in-law said the break-ins had cost his company around £40,000.
Mr Cumming said it was likely three jobs would go if the centre had to close.
"We have full time staff we still have to pay even if the centre isn't open. It's like the hotels industry, in that we have costs all year round, but during the winter months the centre is only really busy two days a week.
"It's just coming into peak mountain biking season, so it's the worst possible timing. It's hay season and we're not making hay, so it's worrying.
"At the end of the day no one was hurt and it's just bits of metal, but those bits of metal are my business.
"We've already taken bookings that we'll have to refund - even if we decided tomorrow to order new bikes we know this weekend will be a loss-making one and it's unlikely we would be able get bikes before next weekend so it's also likely to be loss-making.
"We'll have to sit down and think about what the centre's future will be, but mountain biking is in our family and we would be devastated if we had to stop what we are doing."
Mr Cumming added that Belfast business Chain Reaction helped his firm get up and running again the last time it was targeted. "The last time we were hit if it wasn't for the help of Chain Reaction we definitely would be closed now. And it's the same again this time; we'll need to sit down with the council and our insurers and see where we need to go from here.
"These bikes aren't the kind of things you can pick up in a shop, so they're hard to replace. But it also means the bikes which were stolen will be impossible to sell in the public domain because they are highly customised." The centre, which is known for its challenging trails around the hills of Kilbroney Park at the edge of the Mournes, also provides services to the local council.
He explained that the trails are promoted internationally and visitors come from across the globe to experience them.
He added: "It will hit tourism here two-fold. Because we're the only centre to offer this, if we don't have bikes, tourists coming for the trails will go elsewhere.
"It will hit local users, too. Mountain bikes are expensive and I'm worried that if nothing is done, those people will be afraid to come down with their bikes and that will be felt by the other businesses here."
East Coast Adventure offers canoeing, water-sports, power boat trips, yachting and also includes a hostel and six teepees as part of its facilities. During peak season the business employs around 30 staff.
Constable D McCartan appealed to witnesses or anyone who has any information or is offered a mountain bike for sale in suspicious circumstances to contact to contact Police at Ardmore on the non-emergency number 101.
Alternatively, information can be passed on anonymously through independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.