VENTNOR — Mike Wiesen has been repairing bicycles for four decades — since age 14, when he saved for a year to purchase a $400 racing bike only to find it had been assembled improperly.
For a month, he read books and taught himself to do it right. That is where the 55-year-old Wiesen traces his passion for repairs.
This year, Wiesen is finding his skills are more in demand, as flood-damaged bicycles from Hurricane Sandy are showing up at his business, AAAA Bike Shop on Ventnor Avenue in Ventnor.
Saltwater can pose serious problems to the inner workings of bicycles, especially if the water reaches above the axles, he said.
Wiesen, a Ventnor resident who grew up in Atlantic City, has seen hundreds of bikes come into his shop and expects more as the tourist season approaches.
“Once a bike is flooded, it’s just like a car: There’s always a chance of the bearings seizing in time, so you have to be very careful when you’re evaluating a flood-damaged bike,” he said.
“I find more people are replacing unwillingly,” he said. “They really want to believe the bike isn’t totaled, even though they’re wheeling it in.”
Wiesen runs the AAAA Bike Shop (pronounced Four-A) with his wife, Ann Marie, 50.
Nearly 55 percent of the business involves new bicycle sales. Repairs account for 35 percent, and the re-mainder are rentals, he said.
The repair side is especially valuable for this type of business.
“The repairs are why people come to us. That is why, I believe, most people go to local bike shops,” he said.
Egg Harbor Township resident Regina Neil is one of those customers.
“I’ve been going here for years, and he does a good business,” she said, stopping by to get an inner tube for her bicycle.
The National Bicycle Dealers Association estimates retail sales of bicycles and related parts and accessories reached about $6 billion in 2011.
Wiesen purchased the Ventnor bike business in 1979, after working there as a teenager. Having studied business administration in college, he came home from school to find the previous owner looking to sell.
“They rented me the property at a reasonable rate to get me started, and we lasted there for about nine years,” he said. He later changed locations twice, all in the vicinity.
“I knew what I wanted, and working for the previous owners for so long I decided I wanted to do it,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to make me the richest guy in the world, but the seven years I did work for the previous owners, I enjoyed going to work every day.”
The name of the shop stems from an old marketing trick, and one that has much less relevance now.
“The original owner wanted to be first in the phone book — when it was important to be first in the phone book,” Wiesen said.
“Today it doesn’t mean anything, because nobody uses the phone book anymore. They just go on the Internet,” he said.
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