Dean E. Lewis knew from the start that he would not be directed.
“My plan from the start was to have my own business,” Lewis said, leaning on a counter full of cycling gear, sunglasses and other athletic gear.
“When I was 10 or 12, I knew. I never intended to work for anyone.
Lewis, 61, owner of Dean’s SportPlus, has been his own boss – and has been for half his life. At his Oak Harbor store, he’s been selling and repairing bikes for three decades, serving cyclists and recreational runners as well as generations of families.
“Our customers are loyal customers, so when they have kids they come and buy a kids bike,” says Lewis.
He has moved his store three times, but has relocated to 730 N. Oak Harbor St. for the past 15 years.
Cyclists and serious cyclists also know him as the “go-to man”.
“He’s the guy to go to for crazy parts,” said customer Dave Blais, who recently stopped one morning to find a part for a gearshift for one of his six or seven. bikes. “He’s broken and I have bikes that are 20 years old.”
Lewis is one of the few African Americans to own a business in Oak Harbor, which is nearly 73 percent white, 5 percent African-American, 10 percent Asian, and 9.3 percent white. ‘Hispanic, according to the 2015 U.S. Census.
February is Black History Month, so Lewis reflected on his status as one of the first African Americans to open a store in Oak Harbor that is still going strong.
“I am the only African American who owns a physical store in Oak Harbor that is not a restaurant, barbecue, barber or beauty salon,” he says proudly.
Lewis says the city of Oak Harbor recognized its handful of black-owned businesses each year with an event during Black History Month, but if they did so recently, he laughed “they don’t. haven’t told me about it “.
Half of Dean’s SportsPlus revenue comes from repairs. And it’s not just because of punctures and spring tune-ups.
Strollers, tennis rackets and ski bindings are also part of its “Plus”.
“Dean fixed the brake on my stroller which the internet said could not be fixed,” wrote Lindsay Overmars Marchand in an online review. “And at a great price in less than a day. I was very impressed with his service and knowledge.
Lewis is also certified to string tennis racquets and adjust ski boots to bindings.
His store is mainly stocked with bicycles and everything related to bicycles; helmets, gloves, those weird tight-fitting shorts and shirts, mirrors, lights, reflective vests and “hydration” systems.
“Nowadays, it’s almost too many products and not enough customers,” he says.
Lewis grew up in East St. Louis and ended up in Oak Harbor in the usual way, as the wife of a military man. Before moving to Whidbey, he and his wife lived in Japan for three years.
He rode a bicycle, rode a racing bicycle, and wanted a job that involved bicycles. Working at Oak Harbor’s large sporting goods store, ChuckDann’s in the 1980s, he became a manager and learned the ropes of retail.
Then he decided to stand on his own feet in 1988.
“I started with my toolbox, rental space, and a little sign in the window,” Lewis recalls. Slowly his inventory grew as did his followers. He often helped Boy Scouts in need of bicycle repair badges and spoke at events about the joys of cycling.
“He provides excellent service to our community,” noted client John Pendleton. “He got my 21 year old, like-new bike up and down in less than 24 hours. Dean has great service and he’s a great resource base.
Over the decades, Lewis has seen bikes go from low profile mountain bikes with big tires to low recumbent bikes to hybrids of all kinds.
Upright bikes, the kind that don’t require leaning into the wind, remain the most popular, he says. Bikes in his store sell for between $ 400 and $ 4,000.
He has also witnessed the decline in popularity of the bicycle. Adults are too busy, children and adolescents too lazy.
From 1988 to 1998, he sold around 300 new bikes each year. Now it’s more like 80 new bikes a year.
Gone are the days when almost every kid in the neighborhood owned a bicycle and worked day and night, baseball glove in hand.
The technology is now on top, not the two wheels.
“You can’t ride a bike with earbuds on, look at your iPhone, and take selfies,” says Lewis. “I don’t know. Maybe the kids will go skateboarding again. I guess they could balance on a board and take selfies.
Lewis remembers organizing local bike enthusiasts in 1983 under the name Whidbey Wheelers, a group that collapsed.
Bibs with race numbers hang high in his shop, proof of his recreational racing days.
He’s been on the annual Seattle-Portland trip eight times, a 210-mile trip that can be completed in one or two days.
“I’m a day runner,” he says. “You can do it with a lot of experience and a bad attitude.”
His time? “Twelve hours and 10 minutes is my fastest time. And another year, I barely got there at 8pm.
He’s also competed in the Skagit Classic and Tour de Whidbey, and “like any avid cyclist, I go out when I can”.
Yet Lewis admits to having spent far too much time indoors at his corner store in the past decade. Most recently, he hired 21-year-old Ian Bernert to do a 250-hour internship through WorkSource.
“I’m learning to repair bikes, that’s definitely what I do,” said Bernert. “But I’m also having a good time. Dean always makes me crack.
Joking aside, he said he had no plans to leave anytime soon and put the brakes on his store.
“People tried to buy me out a few times or they wanted me to open a business with them,” he says, pressing down on his stringing machine as he tends to a tennis racket.
“I’m not the type to run after money. If that was what I insisted on, I was gone a long time ago.