12.29.2004

Bicycle Shop Version of "CLERKS"

Some years ago there was this movie "Clerks" where they created a feature film which may have well been a well edited reality show of a few people working in a 7-11 style convenience store and the antics that surrounded their day to day activities.

Well, in my life I have lived a Sampler Packet of the cycling culture....
Comuter, Mountainbiker, Racer (but not like the real racers, but someone who races,) Touring (not tourist,) Messenger, father towing a trailer, and Bike Shop Employee. Each and everyone of those aspects of the cycling culture is a story in itself. But the most easy film to create would have to be the Bike Shop Version of CLERKS.

The bike shop is an odd place.... it is something a tad different than retail stores, mostly because the employees tend to be moderately disfunctional, the shoppers can be more unique, and the owners of bike shops tend to be a little less than conventional themselves. The bicycle shop can be an interesting place filled with interesting people. Although I may shop at the GAP, it is less than likely that as I wander through a strange town I figure I will kill some time as I check out The Gap in ANYTOWN USA.... but... I may wander through the local bike shop to see what there is to see in that particular shop in that particular town.

One thing about the bike shop that may not happen in other retail establishments is the development of locals, regular, hangers on, and groupies.... yes GROUPIES..... well, maybe more hangers on than groupies, but an odd thing just the same. Each shop will over time develop a regular clientele as well as a few characters who find that they enjoy killing time passing through the bike shop. Most regulars come by to come by rather than to shop or buy. One shop in Georgetown, The Bicycle Pro Shop has gone so far as to honor one of their characters, Mr. Herman, with Mr. Herman's Lounge. While at Big Wheel Bikes in Old Town Alexandria, the shop manager there Bennet Moore has become the puppet master of sorts molding and directing the futures of some of his regulars.

The Bennet Moore Big Wheel Experience may be one of the more interesting prospects for the Bike Shop Reality TV Show as Bennet has taken years to cultivate his cast of characters. In some cases I question the ethics of his effect on some of his major players.

let me see if I can recall some of these characters....

well, although Mr. Herman may be a Pro Shop regular.... he may also be a bike shop whore! As I have seen him at Big Wheel in Old Town and have spoken with some of the mechanics at City Bikes and they are more than familiar with him. Seems that he may have a tad more time on his hands than some. I have also seen the long and tall 70 something year old Mr. Herman chatting up the flower salesman on the corner by my work as well as the hotdog salesman..... so he may be a flower and hot dog groupie as well as a bike shop hanger on.

"Boxcar Willy" would be a great example of one of Bennet's oddball regulars....
Willy is an older toothless freak (late 40's or early 50's , maybe 25 years old....tough to say... the years have been hard as he is well weathered) that opts for the streets of Old Town Alexandria rather than the perhaps more dangerous and competitive streets of Washington DC. Willy is on welfare... perhaps more lazy than crazy... but laziness may have enabled some craziness... so he is plenty crazy just the same. Willy goes from living in the woods, passing out in the streets, to hanging at the shelter, to accepting getting arrested for a pety crime during the winter months so that he has a warm place to sleep and meals provided for him.

The highlight of my Willy experience was the day that I put a guitar in his hands. This once moderately annoying town drunk became a colorful and charismatic performer. His singing was a tad whistlely as he had no front teeth, but his ablility to transition from classic blues to Prince's 80's classic KISS to tales of the road made for grand entertainment while working on the bikes. It also centered his energy and kept his temperament at a more even level. Bicycles enter and exit his life like that of an irresponsible child who can not respect that these things cost money. Willy panhandles and gets funny money from the government and may even get some cash from his family..... no matter where he gets it... he seems to have enough that the liquor on his breath is always somewhat fresh and the clothing on his back tends to be dry and moderately clean. Willy has the same documentary potential as Jesco the Dancing Outlaw.

((the Outlaw Page,))

One of the more interesting studies that floats through the Old Town Shop from time to time would have to be "Fast Eddy." Eddy's age is also a bit odd to guess, he too may be late 40's or early 50's, lives on his own but may have some sort of assistance as he is not entirely there, not mentally retarded, but definitely something quirky happening in his head. Bennet may have done more work on Eddy than he did on Willy, but he had his effect on Willy just the same, whether getting Willy on a bicycle or passing on an an old acoustic guitar. With Eddy the impact is more obvious as Eddy's ability to separate fantasy and reality is a tad blurred (I suffer this same sort of confusion as my brother will confirm) Bennet has over the years planted certain ideas in Eddy's childlike head. Bennet will race Eddy around the block in the same way that I may chase my three year old son. Eddy always wins and the crowd always cheers, it is not teasing or patronizing.... it is playful and enjoyable for all. But over years of these races and numerous times of Eddy hearing his name uttered in the classic Eddy Merckx videos Eddy has grown to understand that he has a history of great races. He has met Greg Lemond at an autograph session, but somehow thinks that he raced and trained with him. There are paper clips on Eddy's handlebars that he thinks give him turbo speed. Much of this Eddy created on his one.... much of this was created and fostered by Bennet's guidance. All with the best of intentions, but with perhaps a questionable.

The cast of characters expands well beyond the likes of Eddy, Willy, and Mr. Herman. Bennet is a fast cyclist with a love for riding hard. Years ago he started the tradition of the MISHA'S MORNING RIDES. Where cyclists of various levels would meet at Misha's Coffee House in downtown Old Town for a pre-work workout. Bennet had a history of trying to pick up the pace to an almost race pace with riders and racers who would much rather store their energy for the work day or for the race that is approaching that weekend. So there will be a rotation of serious road cyclists in need of a special order or perhaps just killing time to visit and chat. Bennet in years past has developed a business relationship with a Mountainbike Tour Company (Old Towne Outfitters) in Guatemala where he lived for over a year as a tour guide. This also draws attention to the shop and will bring in another interesting cast of characters. So there will be local champions who are local characters. Fast guys trying to take it to the next level. Or just family men who are seeking to keep the sport part of their lives.

The rotation of employees.
The conflict of employees.
all of that is as entertaining as the floating though of the various characters

Shops will always attract the geeks and freaks that are passing through town. Someone who wants to rent a bike or someone on a tour who wants to tell someone their tales from the road. The bike shop may not pay that well, but it is always an interesting place to work. Most definitely I feel that the world of Reality TV or Documentary Film makers would do well to put their 'focus' on certain aspects of the bicycle culture and in this case I think that the bike shop and it idiosycracies would entertain many.

In addition to the documentary film idea.....

I have always thought that a Coffee Shop/Bicycle Shop Mix would do well.....
if these folks are coming in to hang out....
well
give them a place to sit
have a couch or two with some cycling videos playing or the tour if it is happening live
work on their bike while they wait
and let the put some money into the shop by drinking a caffeine filled coffee drink

in Sedona AZ I did see a place called Bike and Bean that did this to a certain level
but
I feel that an urban setting may flourish with such a business model
but what do I know
I am a consumer
not a business owner
full of ideas
absent of action

*the names were not changed to protect anyone
let me apologize to anyone I may have misrepresented here
this is not a historical document
it is my BLOG, my opinion, my set of rants
send corrections and comments
I may make additions
but never expect me to delete anything
as I am just putting it out there
I have nothing but respect and love for all that were mentioned here
I am sorry if I have written any innaccuracies here
if you feel you have been misrepresented type a comment and let me know
if anyone is in closer contact with these people
please fee free to finish these thoughts and set the record straight in the comments section
peace

1 comment:

stupid said...

It amazes me how much like you I think. Some shops have very colorful subcultures within them and would make an awesome backdrop for a documentry (or even scripted movie), while others tend to be strickly business and boring. Also about "Coffee Shop/Bicycle Shop Mix would do well.....", I've always thought this was a good idea. I've worked in a shop that benifited from haveing a coffee shop next door. It was a big win-win situation. Having it part of the bike shop only makes sense. Then you could really market the "lifestyle" of cycling. Videos playing, reading materials, sit and drink. Meet before rides, and a place to hang after. No sales pressure, just enjoy the atmosphere.