Bikes and Community on Morrison Road: Inside Westwood’s One Stop Bike Shop

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Between the mechanic and tire shops on Morrison Road is a spot selling one of Denver’s favorite forms of transportation: bicycles.

It’s a one stop bike shop to be exact.

If the line of what must be around 50 adult bikes on one side of the entrance and 50 children’s bikes on the other side isn’t an indicator that this place really is a one-stop shop, just head over inside the bike paradise, feel the rubber and look around.

Rims and tires hang from the ceiling, alongside wire art sculptures of frogs and flowers, Broncos flags galore, little light-up toy bikes with dolls, skeletons and of course bikes used and new.

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The chaotically curated Wonderland belongs to Westwood native Thomas Padilla, who, dressed in a mechanic’s shirt and black high chucks, has sold, repaired and customized bikes for the past 30 years on Morrison.

“I was born and raised in Hazel and Center, right next to the Taco House,” Padilla said. “I lived all over the neighborhood near Kentucky, near King Soopers. It’s like a culture… to be from here. I love watching the changes, some of them anyway.

Padilla enthusiastically mentions the vibrant murals plastered on storefronts along Morrison, including his own.

JWLC Mendoza mural on the side of the One Stop Bike Shop in Morrison Road.  September 22, 2021.
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Fixing a bike is like a work of art for Padilla. He started working on bikes in high school with his five older brothers. Once Padilla graduated — Lincoln High, by the way — he started working in sanitation on a garbage truck, where he picked up discarded bikes along the way.

“I would find a bike one day and the next day I would find another with a part I needed,” Padilla said. “Once my friends from other teams found out I liked the bikes, they started bringing them to me. I’d say, Hey, buy me a six-pack on payday, I’ll fix the bike. I started doing auctions and garage sales, sooner or later I had to open a shop.My yard was so full.

One Stop Bike Shop on Morrison Road.  Westwood, September 21, 2021.
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So around 1992, Padilla thinks, he opened One Stop with one of his brothers, adding to Morrison’s landscape.

Padilla said there was another store on the block that closed a while ago, but sometimes people still come by thinking it’s the other store.

Now the children in the photos lining the One Stop wall have returned to shop with their own children, Padilla said.

“This kid came here one day, about a year ago, said, ‘You know, that’s me on the wall right there,'” Padilla said. “I’m going ‘Really?’ He says, ‘Yes, that’s me. You gave me a bike when I was little. And he thanked me. Made me feel good.’

You see, Padilla doesn’t just fix bikes. In addition to making wire art with scraps, he also gives back by teaching neighborhood kids to ride a bike.

Thomas Padilla at work inside One Stop Bike Shop on Morrison Road.  Westwood, September 21, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Padilla said he gave away a lot of bikes to kids and teens in Westwood. He loves children. (He has seven – and eight grandchildren.) He will show them once how to put air in the tire and then, if they need more, they will have to do it themselves.

“How else are they going to learn,” laughed Padilla.

He said he taught a few of them how to fix bikes and would put them to work in the store after school so they had something to do.

“Instead of losing their thumbs, playing games,” Padilla said.

Toby Montoya, godson and sometimes employee of Padilla, can attest to the generosity of Padilla.

The two met at Our Lady of Victory around 10 years ago and Padilla was part of Montoya’s christening.

Inside a one stop bike shop on Morrison Road.  Westwood, September 21, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Montoya said Padilla has become another father figure to him. His own father taught him cars and Padilla taught him bicycles. Whenever he needs work, Montoya said Padilla has given him a job at the store until he can get back on his feet.

“Giving back to the community is a big part of [Thomas’] drive,” Montoya said. “He wants to do something good for others and that comes from our faith. Do good things just because it’s a good thing to do. He loves people and everyone is his friend as long as you don’t hurt him. He’s just social like that.

Montoya said that Padilla has received help in his life, thanks to God, his friends and his family, so Padilla reciprocates when he can.

Padilla is known across the region for his personality and generosity, and it’s part of his character, Montoya said. He will give hits here and there. Teaching a child to change a tire. Or spot someone a few dollars if they’re short. Sometimes they come back and sometimes they don’t, but Padilla said that’s part of life.

“We all go through tough times sometimes and we all need a little help,” Montoya said. “Thomas is not here to make money. He’s here because he loves what he does.

Thomas Padilla sits inside his One Stop Bike Shop on Morrison Road.  February 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Padilla is humble about it, though. At first he brushes off the compliments, but as the conversation lengthens and he reminisces about 30 years of bikes, struggles, triumphs and smiles, he begins to agree with the sentiment.

“I’ve been here long enough,” Padilla laughed. “I have spent many years of my life giving and taking care of myself. Helped many children. Helped families in difficulty. I bring a smile. I try to always be positive I may be a legend.

One Wednesday afternoon, between two credit card transactions, Padilla transforms an old metal gear into a flower. He said he could connect a stem and leaves at the base and make a necklace out of it.

A young man enters the stores.

“Hi, how are you? I was in the neighborhood and wanted to drop by and give you the $10 I owe you since yesterday.

Padilla says thank you and the two talk about a ride later that night.

“See, they’re coming back,” Padilla said with a laugh. “Every Wednesday we go out and cycle all night. Sometimes we don’t get home until 12:30 p.m. We drive everywhere in the city center.

Montoya said the group of bikers from all over Denver, even a guy living in Colorado Springs, have been coming together for years. They meet by Fishback Park.

“Man, sometimes I never believe how far I ride,” Padilla chuckled. “I have an electric bike but I ride all the time. I use electric when I go up the hills. Constituencies are good for you. It keeps your mind in the right place.

Thomas Padilla on one of his bikes outside One Stop Bike Shop, his business on Morrison Road.  February 23, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite