HILLSBOROUGH -- While all businesses strive to move forward, the father and son team at Hillsborough Bicycle Company, are relying on pedaling their company forward.
Pedaled-forward in 2013, the decision to launch a dedicated bicycle repair shop in Hillsborough was one of need recognition and one of passion recognition, too.
“Hillsborough needed a bicycle repair place,” said Eli Belz, a recent high school graduate and bicycle repair czar. Belz and his father started the company as a continuation of shared interest in cycling.
“I learned to repair and fix bicycles because of my strong interest in them and fascination with all things cycling,” Belz said.
Initially, the Hillsborough Bicycle Company was housed in a side alley, one of two alleys in the downtown proper, where they opened shop to repair and fix and upgrade bicycles.
“It was perfect when we started. Yet, we eventually outgrew the spot as demand for our services increased,” Belz said.
In the fall, the repair shop pushed its growth wheels forward and took up space on Corbin Street across from Sinclair Station near Churton Street. The new venue offers space, room to expand, and other necessities that Belz and his father knew would be important to grow.
“It has running water and air conditioning and now we have an actual waiting space for people to sit and wait during repairs,” Belz said.
They repair, enhance, rebuild and perform other needed cycling services.
“Business is growing and it has been very good to us,” Belz said.
Yet, while they are a business and they exist to provide a customer service, Eli recently found himself pedaling the wheels of giving forward for a known customer. In January, one of the characters familiar to downtown Hillsborough, named Charlie, had his bicycle stolen.
“He works at one of the local restaurants and he lives his life pretty simple. He bikes to work. He bikes home. He bikes to the store. Everything he does is dependent on his bicycle,” Belz said.
While Charlie was grocery shopping one day, someone stole his bike, essentially stealing the cog that connects the wheel of his life.
“On our Facebook page we stated that we would want to help him get a bike, even if it was a used machine, we wanted to help him. We had really great feedback and soon established a GoFundMe page to help Charlie get a bicycle; we did all of this without telling him,” Belz said.
Response to the request was phenomenal. “We had 40 contributors,” Belz marveled.
In a matter of a few days, Hillsborough Bicycle Company managed to raise the necessary funds for a new bicycle, helmet, lock, lights, rack for his bags, and tires that are designed to run, even flat.
“The community was so generous and we had to actually stop the page as we exceeded our goal,” Belz said.
Belz purchased the bike for Charlie and put everything together.
“It was a Wednesday and I found Charlie eating supper in the parking lot of the grocery store. When I told him that the community had rallied for him, he was quite emotional, I could tell he was appreciative and surprised and he just kept asking, who helped me?” Belz said. “I took him to the shop and we pulled up the page and I showed him all of the names of those that had given to this. He went through the names, one by one and it was really rewarding seeing his face and learning that so many people had helped.
“We purchased a cruiser-style bike, it has three gears and a front brake and it’s safer than what he had. we really wanted to improve his life and make it as safe as possible,” Belz said.
Through all of this Belz says that he was personally unaware of how the emotions of helping someone in this way would be so rewarding. “I was disappointed when I heard this happened but it turned out to be really rewarding,” Belz said.
EDITOR’S NOTES -- Hillsborough Bicycle Company, 110 W. Corbin St., is open weekdays from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit hillsboroughbicycle.com online. … Have a story idea for Jason Hawkins? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org