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Just when Salt Lake City wants more residents to commute by bicycle, downtown's only bike shop - and one billed as the oldest in the West - has closed.

Guthrie Bicycle, 158 E. 200 South, shuttered at the end of January. Its Sugar House spot, 803 E. 2100 South, remains open.

While business has been slow since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, shop owner Richard Goddard said that wasn't the reason for the closure.

Goddard's family, which owns the building that housed the shop, was approached by a buyer. While the structure wasn't for sale at the time, the family agreed to do it.

Because the building has been in the family since about 1931, the decision was difficult.

"I grew up in it," said Goddard, now in his 50s. "I used to go down when I was 10 years old and count inventory at the end of the year. I started building bikes at the downtown store at age 12."

Built in 1890, the three-story structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and represents commercial architecture prevalent in the Utah Territory in the late 19th century, according to the register nomination form.

It was first an office building for an investment company and included a boarding house. Goddard's great-grandfather bought the stone and brick structure in the '30s and moved his Guthrie Bicycle Co. (named for the bike store's previous owner) there.

While the bikes are moved out of the downtown store, a sign on the window calls Guthrie's the oldest bike shop in the western United States, with its start in 1904.

Because the building is not listed on the city's historic register, it is not safeguarded against demolition. Goddard said the new owners - who will be closing on the property at the end of April and couldn't be reached for comment - don't plan to tear it down.

Besides saying goodbye to family history, Goddard said it has been tough leaving behind his downtown customers, many of them "down and out." The shop served downtown dwellers whose only means of transportation is by bicycle.

"That's one of the things I feel bad about. We're not there right now."

But the two dozen or so artist studios - including well-known Randall Lake's - that fill the building's top two floors are expected to remain.

Still-life painter Brian Blackham estimates the Guthrie artists enclave has been around about three decades. When the building owners decided to sell, he looked into creating a cooperative to buy it to preserve the studios.

He was later told by the new owner that the artists are welcome to stay.

"This place really is an icon, a legacy. If it changes direction, it would just be an utter shame for the art community," Blackham said.