I saw recently at a non-profits’ building a sign that said “Our volunteers get paid in six figures: S-M-I-L-E-S”. Corny but cute.
This week has been the first for us to be open, after a nice article in the local paper on Monday – front page yet. Publicity like that sure pays off because we have been really busy accepting donations and yakking with people coming in to check us out. Just yesterday two families came in and left very happy.
The first was a dad with three kids, each pushing a bike needing air. He asked if we would pump up the kids’ tires. I said no. I said I’d show them how to do that, which I did. And one bike had a loose seat so I showed that youngster how to use the quick release mechanism Their bikes were fairly new but they were interested in learning more about bicycle care. I told them we’ll be having classes soon and if they want to participate they should be members. So we arranged for them to come in and ‘work’ for membership value, about 10 hours total. They jumped at the chance, signed up and left with smiles.
An hour later another family of grandma, mom, and daughter arrived with the girl’s bike showing an obvious lack of air in tires. They, too, wanted to just drop it off and let me do the work. I said the same as to the first group and they said okay.
First was the tire pump – I demo then let her do it. Smile #1. Then there was the seat that was turned around backwards. Again, I demo then let her use the quick release. Smile #2. Then I asked how hard it was to pedal with only one pedal – they laughed and asked where they could find one, hoping I’d have one for them. I searched through our pedal box and found a nice pair. I demoed how to use the pedal wrench and loosened them both (pedals removal be pretty hard to get started for little hands). She removed the first pedal. I showed her how to use a tiny bit of oil on the bolt to make it easier to put on and how to get the bolt started. She did as shown. Then I showed her how the left pedal is different and why. She caught on and put on the left pedal using the opposite direction as told. I tightened both pedals. Smile #3. Bigger than the first two.
I mentioned we were planning on having ladies’ nights once in a while and thought maybe all three would be interested in coming to learn more. They agreed enthusiastically. They’ll be back, too.
Yes, every day will not be like this one. But it sure was a great way to start out. Payment in smiles like those make it easier to get through the tougher times.
A few weeks ago we asked around if anyone was interested in becoming what we call Key Volunteers and attending a special class on bike mechanics. We had eight folks raise their hand and we said great!
This past Thursday, aka yesterday, July 6, we had five of them attend Session 1 of a Park Tool School offered by friends at Ohio City Bike Coop down in the flats on Columbus Street in Cleveland. We were a mix of talent from those who have very little experience to those who have only a little more. Novices is a good word. Sponges is another good one because we sopped up as much unique info that we could handle in one 2-hour session.
In attendance were members Art Poling, Mike Chandler, Eric Barns, Betsy Miles and Ed Stewart. We have thee others who will be taking the classes later – and we expect even more will show an interest also.
These will be our primary leaders for when you show up to work on your bikes. They will assist you to the extent of their knowledge, which will be growing steadily every week. In time we hope to have a dozen or more who have completed the course and continue their education working with our members and guests. The more we have, the more hours we can be open, and the more classes we can offer.
We are very grateful to the knowledgeable staff at Ohio City Bike Coop for what they have to offer. After 25 years of doing this they have a lot to offer. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in their programs, jump on it.
Even while we have been busy prepping our space for business, folks have been dropping by to see what was going on. Our building has seen a lot of different businesses come and go – it was a travel agency for decades then a couple years ago it housed a hot dog restaurant of sorts; when that failed predictably, a cell phone repair shop tried… and they went elsewhere after a while. The building stood empty for a few months then we discovered it.
It took some doing to turn a retail space as it was into a workspace and education center. A month of sawing and hammering and cleaning and painting showed the area that something else was coming in.
New neighbors and friends would stop by to check us out – some even stayed to help. The one comment we heard most commonly form all, after we explained what our vision was, was a loud, “It’s about time.”
A city the size of Elyria (around 60,000) and the county seat nonetheless, without any bicycle service is just wrong. We had a good bike shop for years with Mike’s Bike Shop that saw three generations of ‘Mikes’ serve the community. When that ended we saw there was a real need for our city to have bike service again.
We agree it’s about time. And here we are, opening a bike coop of sorts. It’s not a ‘true’ coop because we also charge a membership fee, which most coops do not. However, with our significant overhead for such a nice place, we need to create some revenue in order to stay in business.
And since we are a nonprofit organization there are some things we cannot do. So we’ll behave nicely and make good things happen for Elyrians who want to ride bikes. If that’s you, stop on by and see us.