Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Wheels

We went down to Wakefield yesterday to pick up my new Soma Smootie ES at Stedman's bike shop. I ordered the frame & fork the day after Christmas and had most of the parts from my Surly transplanted onto the new bike.

Before going to the shop we stopped to see Mr. Stedman. He is in his eighties and living in an assisted living facility in Wakefield. He can be a cranky old fella at times but he has a heart of gold. Everett is the epitome of an old swamp Yankee.

When we got there he was doing the accounts for the bike shop. He rarely gets to the shop, especially in this cold weather, but still does all the accounting on his kitchen table.

You bike racers out there may recognize Everett as the long time sponsor and benefactor of the W.E. Stedman Grand Prix cyclocross race as well as the Swamp Yankee Road Club (Cox Communication team).

Everett's family has sold bikes at their store since the 1920s when along with gasoline, ice cream, hardware and tobacco they sold Schwinns. The shop went all bikes during the bike boom of the early 1970s when the last gas pumps were knocked over by a drunk driver. The building was built in the late 1800s as a hotel and still has a ballroom with the Masonic symbols painted on the ceiling on the top floor. I worked at Stedman's from 1985 until 1989.

I am convinced it is the best bike shop around. Prices are great, service exceptional. It is now just a bike shop, it is a cornerstone of downtown Wakefield. Locals come in to gossip and drink coffee. Bike racers come in for parts and service. Parents still buy their kids bikes there. Regulars stop by almost daily just to talk. Two of the three full time staff have been there since I left in 1989. Compare that to the turnover at your local shop. The third, a retired Navy Chief, has been there over a decade. It is the shop Maynard Hershon should have written about.

Want a new Tarmac? Go to Stedman's. Need a new planet gear for your 1953 Sturmey Archer three speed hub? Go to Stedman's.

I pray that when Mr. Stedman passes on the shop stays. If you love bikes. I mean really love bikes, and know what Viscount, Simplex and Valentino mean you owe yourself a visit to Stedman's

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