Wooden Wheels rolling again
Community support helps bike shop reopen
Less than three months after Wooden Wheels closed its Main Street store, the bike shop has been reborn in Fairfield Shopping Center.
The reincarnated business held its grand opening on Saturday, culminating a community-wide effort to save the shop led by former employees Chris Denney, Robbie Downward and David Ferguson.
“This is overwhelmingly awesome,” Denney said as a capacity crowd gathered for Saturday’s celebration.
He noted the shop opened its doors just three weeks after he and his business partners signed their lease.
“We’re all very worn out, but we’re very happy,” he said.
It’s been a whirlwind few months for Denney, Downward and Ferguson,
who had their worlds rocked in late January when Wooden Wheels owner Tom Harvey abruptly closed the old shop after more than 40 years.
The three employees, who all considered Wooden Wheels their second home, quickly decided they needed to find a way to revive the shop. They started an online fundraiser and raised nearly $19,000 to use as start-up costs for their new business.
The new shop is not officially affiliated with the old business, but Harvey supported their efforts and allowed them to retain the name.
Ferguson said they looked at several locations but decided on Fairfield Shopping Center because of its easy access to Newark’s trail system. Wooden Wheels organizes
weekly bike rides, and from the shop, riders only have to cross New London Road to get to a connector trail that leads to the Pomeroy Trail. From there, cyclists can head south toward downtown or north into White Clay Creek State Park.
The opening of Wooden Wheels represents the first step in revitalizing the aging shopping center, which has been without an anchor tenant since Superfresh closed more than two years ago. Food Lion is expected to open there later this year, and property owner Delle Donne & Associates is planning a $4.5 million facelift for the property.
Downward said he and his business partners worked long hours readying the shop for opening day but added it would not have been possible without an outpouring of support and donations from customers and the broader cycling community.
“The community owns this bike shop,” he said. “We just put in the time.”
The trio also got help from Mark Kleinschmidt, a cyclist and former president of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, who helped them put together a business plan.
“He gave us direction,” Ferguson said. “We had the idea and he made a map of it and told us what direction to go.”
Even Saturday’s grand opening was a who’s who of local businesses. Iron Hill Brewery donated beer, Duck Donuts provided refreshments, Rainbow Records sent a DJ, and Little Goat Coffee Roasting Co. offered a special Wooden Wheels-branded blend of coffee.
“Newark is a tight-knit
community,” Downward said. “Everybody helps everybody out.”
Ferguson said the original plan was for the new shop to focus solely on service and repairs, but they ultimately decided to sell bikes as well. The shop also sells various bike accessories and apparel.
Brian Scott, a frequent customer of Wooden Wheels, stopped by on Saturday to see the new shop’s progress.
“I consider Wooden Wheels my family,” Scott said, adding that the old shop’s closure hit him hard. “When I heard they reopened, I was, like, faith is still alive.”
Scott said Wooden Wheels has a “chill and mellow” vibe. The shop helped him after his bike was stolen last summer, and Downward even lent him one of his bikes to use for a while.
“They actually look out for people,” he said. “We’ve got to disengage from the internet
and start supporting local shops.”
Longtime customer Victor Musin agreed.
“These guys have always been awesome,” he said.
Located at 405 New London Road – in the space last occupied by True Value Hardware – Wooden Wheels is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Robbie Downward, co-owner of the new Wooden Wheels, works on a bike Saturday afternoon.
Chris Denney, co-owner of the new Wooden Wheels, talks to a customer Saturday afternoon.