New bike shop is backed by cycling community
MANAGING MOSAIC EDITOR
On the morning of Jan. 15, David Ferguson, Chris Denney and Robbie Downward were completely blindsided when longtime owner, Tom Harvey announced the abrupt end to the Newark staple-bike shop, Wooden Wheels.
For the three employees, Wooden Wheels was more than just an occupation, it was a hub for their life-long cycling passion.
This passion is what drove the trio to completely re-establish their own Wooden Wheels in a new location under a three-piece ownership. The cyclists wasted no time.
“There was about an hour of grieving,” Ferguson says, before he and his co-workers began packing up supplies and mapping out everything they would need to revamp the business under their own names.
The original Wooden Wheels sat at the corner of Main Street and Haines Street for over 40 years.
“I grew up racing BMX and Wooden Wheels was the shop to go to in the area,” Ferguson says. “Tom Harvey, the previous owner, had a big BMX presence in the area. You’d go to a racetrack and you’d see people show up with Wooden Wheels jerseys on, and every kid wanted that jersey. So when I got a job here it was like a dream come true… It wasn’t really an option to not keep it going.”
Within just one month’s time, the trio has garnered help and funding from local Newark businesses and the cycling community, raising nearly $18,000 on their GoFundMe page. They purchased a vacant space in the shopping complex on New London Road, and have been completing rapid construction for their anticipated grand opening of Wooden Wheels Service & Repair in early April.
“We could have called it anything,” Ferguson says. “We could have called it ‘Kitten’s Café’ and people would have known if [Denney and Downward] are still working there that it’s Wooden Wheels.”
The new shop owners emphasize how vital the backing from the local cycling community was to their reconstruction, and how they aim to have this new location serve as a community-based, cycling-oriented hangout.
“It’s a community-based, rider-owned and rider-operated business where people can come and share their love for bicycles,” Downward says in an email. “That’s what Wooden Wheels always meant to me as a kid and that’s what we hope to make Wooden Wheels Service & Repair mean to future generations of riders.”
Visitors will be able to purchase coffee or bring their own beer to enjoy at the large cherry wood island in the center of the shop. The store will also include the main repair stations toward the entrance, a satellite repair spot toward the rear and bicycles available for all ages. The owners also look forward to more group rides now that their location is closer to the Pomeroy Trail in White Clay Creek State Park.
“We’re way more community oriented than anybody else in the area,” Denney says. “It’s pretty easy since we all ride. If you go to some of the other shops not everyone rides.”
The owners say they are looking forward to the new freedom that will accompany running their own shop. While in the past, Harvey had the final say on each business decision, the trio hopes to now have the ability to bounce ideas off each other and other community members to benefit the new shop.
Wooden Wheels Service & Repair is set to open on April 2, with a grand opening event taking place the following Saturday, April 7.
“We couldn’t have done it without the community,” Ferguson says. “We’re the owners but it’s going to be everyone’s bike shop.”