The Pro's Closet

What: eBay bicycle and outdoor gear retailer

Founded: 2004

Daily inventory: 3,000 units

Where: 4939 North Broadway St. #58, Boulder

Online: http://theproscloset.com/

E ight years ago, Nick Martin lived in his Volkswagen van while trying to make it as a professional mountain bike racer.

When times got tough, he sold everything he could live without on eBay.

His Trek-Volkswagen teammates and cycling peers took notice of Martin's eBay savvy and started shuffling their old cycling gear his way, hoping to make some extra cash.

What started as a way to pay for Martin's racing lifestyle soon became The Pro's Closet, the pro cycling circle's go-to spot for selling used bikes and other outdoor gear on eBay. For buyers across the world, the company's three professional photographers document every inch of each product, including any dents or scratches so that customers know what they're buying.

"We're trying to be as transparent as possible, we don't like to surprise our customers," Martin said. "They can trust that they're going to get something that's been gone through, inspected and kind of has that Pro's Closet stamp of approval."

Years and at least four warehouses later, Martin's van has been replaced by a chic, cool gray warehouse in North Boulder filled with bikes, vintage furniture and quirky knick-knacks Martin has collected from -- you guessed it -- eBay. Five or so dogs, big and small, roam the warehouse. Mike, a brown boxer, lounges on the couch near the front door (he's in charge of customer service).

Martin's black lab, Norman, rides to work each day behind Martin on his bike in a custom-made trailer. On Fridays, they stop for bagels, and Norman carries his all the way to work in his mouth.

Auction manager Josh Brudwick works on his computer next to his dog, Frankie, on Dec. 18, 2012, at The Pro’s Closet in North Boulder.
Auction manager Josh Brudwick works on his computer next to his dog, Frankie, on Dec. 18, 2012, at The Pro's Closet in North Boulder. (JEREMY PAPASSO)

Early in 2013, The Pro's Closet will expand into the unit next door on Broadway, adding 1,000 square feet to the already 4,000-square-foot space. The current shop stocks around 3,000 items on any given day, and around 1,700 get shipped out each week.

But business is growing, and the shop needs more space for their in-house photography studio, eBay sales research team, inventory and shipping operations.

"It's been cool to watch it grow," said University Bicycles general manager Lester Binegar. "Because it's a global marketplace and Boulder is such a concentrated town with cyclists, it's an outlet for people to buy and sell used gear and bikes."

Martin and business partner Pete Lopinto, who runs the front end of the business, joined forces during a few long winter training rides, back when they were both trying to hack it as pros.

Martin, a mountain bike racer, and Lopinto, a road racer , weren't all that close, but started talking about how to make an eBay business profitable.

Because of their separate cycling spheres, they were able to tap into both sets of contacts when the business first started.

Now, The Pro's Closet sells all types of bikes, apparel, gear and has started dabbling in other types of outdoor gear, like skis, and baseball bats and gloves.

Nick Altiere photographs bicycle wheels for auction at The Pro’s Closet. The local business sells bikes, parts and clothing all over the world.
Nick Altiere photographs bicycle wheels for auction at The Pro's Closet. The local business sells bikes, parts and clothing all over the world. (JEREMY PAPASSO)

But The Pro's Closet doesn't steal business away from local bike shops. Since eBay is a worldwide marketplace, less than one percent of the business's sales occur in Boulder County. They run on a 24-hour sales cycle, receiving emails and bids from the other side of the world while the business's 20 employees sleep.

Instead, local shops send customers to Martin and his crew to sell their used bikes and make room for new ones. Local cyclists may want to upgrade to newer or better models but need cash and a place to sell their current model. So local bike shops send them along to The Pro's Closet, and customers return, cash in hand after selling their used bike on eBay, to purchase a new ride from a local dealer.

"They are a great resource for us, and help a lot of our clients who are looking to purchase a new bike, but don't know what to do with their old equipment," said Pro Peloton Cyclery co-owner Chris Soden. "They're not a bike shop, they're an internet warehouse, and they are at a different end of the food chain than we are, but I would argue just as necessary."

Martin says they're necessary, too, because they eliminate waste by acting as bicycle recyclers. He practices that mentality in nearly everything he buys, too. Even the staplers and scissors in The Pro's Closet offices are vintage eBay specials.

"Buying something that already exists is the greenest way to shop," Martin said.

Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.