By Daniel Warn / [email protected]
When Chehalis resident Dave Smith, 61, was a kid, riding a bike was a lot like freedom.
Now he is spending his retirement working at the Hub City Bike Shop in downtown Centralia to help extend that freedom to the entire community.
Hub City Bike Shop, part of Bethel Church’s Hub City Missions, provides bike repairs on a suggested donation basis to the community at large and anyone passing through Centralia who needs a stop at the booth.
The store has been located in the old Pearl Street Pool building in the 500 block of North Pearl Street for nearly six years, but the mission began long before that.
“The total story would go back to when Bethel Church started operating Hub City Missions,” Smith told The Chronicle on Friday. “In terms of what we started doing, the mission would provide food and services to people in the community in need, and so we were helping the mission. We saw the need. And we also saw people arriving on hobbled bikes. They were patched and were in poor condition.
Smith – who started repairing bikes by fixing his bike when his father was too tired from working on Smith’s oft-broken bikes – stepped in to help customers at the mission get transportation to do things like go to job interviews and get back on their feet.
“I have a background in cycling and I was like, ‘Hey, we can help these people. In the alley (near the church) we started in the back of my van – myself and a few others. Our pastors supported him. They said, ‘Hey, if you can do that, go for it’. So we put up awnings and worked in the alley when people showed up looking for food.
But the alley was in a breezeway, and because Hub City Missions fed people year-round, it was not uncommon for winter storms to disrupt work in progress, Smith said.
“The wind was picking up and blowing the canopy over there in the middle of the street. It was wild,” he said.
After braving the wintry weather in the alley, Bethel Church brokered a deal with the city of Centralia to begin using the pool building as a base of operations.
“It’s kind of a sweetheart deal,” Smith said.
The bike shop is full of donated bikes, parts of which Smith and the other volunteers use to repair community bikes.
In the past, the volunteers who helped Smith with his repairs were often retirees, but now a new generation of do-it-yourselfers has joined the group.
“Right now we have a few young children here,” he said. “So we have a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old, which is great. I mean, they have enthusiasm for it. They are happy to be here. I can’t tell you how grateful I am, because the kids — their time is pretty important to them, and they show up here on Saturdays. And they understand the concept of what we’re trying to do for the community, what we’re trying to accomplish.
As volunteers, Smith and the others are not paid for the work, and Smith told The Chronicle he works on the bikes as a sort of sacrifice for his Christian faith, which he feels called by God to helping people acquire essential mobility.
Sometimes the work is intensive, with multiple parts needed, while other times all someone needs is a fixed plate or a lube job.
Since the work is done on a suggested donation basis – where Smith will tell people what the labor and parts will cost after checking if they can pay at all – many people will pay well at all. beyond what is required of them.
“Going back to the religious aspect of it — it’s a concept in the church, the tithing aspect,” Smith said. “The Bible tells us that’s what we’re supposed to do. Not everyone has that. They may not have that church experience, yet they understand how to help people. And they want to help their community.
As it’s all donation-based, all profits generated by the shop after overhead goes directly to Hub City’s missions to provide food for people in need.
Smith knows from his experience of the wind whipping his hair as he rode the streets of his hometown on the San Francisco Bay that bikes can mean so much more than just getting from point A to point B.
“A bike that you can ride (and) get out and have fun with. I love that,” Smith said. “I want that for everybody. Anyone who wants a bike, let’s find a way. Cheaper than possible. We know how to pinch a dime and if people want to work with us, we’ll roll you, and we’ll roll you.
Over the years, the Hub City Bike store has had many success stories.
A woman, who has great difficulty walking due to a disability, often uses her three-wheeled recumbent bike to get around. She works with children who also have disabilities, and she couldn’t get to work one day because of broken cables and a shifter on her bike.
Usually, Smith doesn’t go out and collect people’s bikes to fix them, but duty is in order in this case.
“That was a special case, wasn’t it? So we brought it, fixed it (and) gave it back to him,” Smith told The Chronicle. “Where else could she go?” We picked it up and delivered it. »
Another story concerns a man who had taken a bicycle trip from Seattle to Los Angeles whose tires had burst near Centralia.
“He had a flat tire and he had a bike that uses sealant instead of a tube,” Smith said. “So it was an apartment and it was a disaster. The sealant came out and it was stuck. He didn’t know how to fix it. So I got the call. … He wasn’t quite prepared. He camped the whole way, so we met him, figured out what he needed, and sent him on his way.
Smith said he’s helped countless others find their way as they balance themselves on two wheels.
“Not being able to help people, life is too short,” he said. “God put me in this place so I can retire. My needs are being met. … So why not? I love this community. I think it’s a great place. I think the quality of life here is good. The crime rate, relatively speaking, is low. They face problems. They try to solve the problems, so why not be part of the solution?”
The shop is open Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but whenever the door is open, Smith will be there to work during the hours.
People can contact the store by calling 360-523-3992.