Wooden Wheels rolling again

Community sup­port helps bike shop re­open

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHANNON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

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.

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