Portland’s first African-American operated bicycling shop grows
By Cari Hachmann/The Portland Observer
A twisted hunk of metal and tires mangled around a street bicycle rack is exactly what the recently-opened Portland Bike Station hopes to avoid by offering commuters a space to safely park their bikes inside.
“We don’t want to see bikes outside,” said Bishop K. Sims, executive director of the Portland Bike Station. Looking to join the larger Bike Share program in Portland, the one-stop shop also offers hourly and daily rentals and full-service repairs.
The business united two visions for Sims, a minister at the Full Holy Ghost Mission. He created a place for downtown workers to store their bikes out of the rain and out harm’s way, with another life-long mission, employing the homeless and people recovering from drug and alcohol problems.
A Portland native and son of minister parents, Sims helps people in the community transition from past troubles such as jail, drug abuse, and homelessness, to a more stable life with positive activities.
As the only African-American-run bicycle shop in Portland, he breaks a stereotype in Portland that there is only a certain race of people riding bikes.
“The face of bikes needs to change,” said Sims, who learned about bikes from his childhood neighbor, a Schwinn dealer. “It needs to look more like America.”
With funding from the Full Holy Ghost Mission, Sims and several volunteers opened the Portland Bike Station, located within the Dekum Building on Southwest Washington Street and Third Avenue, in April of this year.
Most of the volunteers and employees at Portland Bike Station can testify that Sims helped them out in their lives. By gaining job experience and a stable work history, they are making up the favor.
“Working or volunteering at the Bike Station allows people to have stability,” said Sims, “And it’s a job everybody can do.”
Matt Hilton, 60, says if it weren’t for Sims offering him a job as a church handyman and donating a mobile trailer for him to stay in, he may still have been broke, homeless and abusing drugs and alcohol.
“Bishop is the one and only person I’ve seen reach into his own pocket to help someone else,” said Hilton, who has now been clean and sober for the past seven years. He calls Sims his best friend.
When Hilton found out that Sims planned to remodel the space where the bike station came into existence, he was the first on the scene to offer a hand.
“This place was a dump,” said Hilton, “We redid the whole thing.” Though the church paid for the project and Naito supplied the building, the entire place needed to be gutted and restored.
Two years, 900 tiles, lots of carpet, and one new sprinkler system later, the Portland Bike Station was born.
Open Monday through Friday from 7 in the morning to 7 at night, customers can choose from one of 50 or so donated and purchased bikes for rent at an hourly or daily charge. Bike parking is offered at a monthly rate of $65, weekly $20, and daily $10, with discounts for Dekum Building tenants.
While the daily commuters park their bike for the day at the shop, they can also get their bike serviced by two in-house technicians, from minor to full-maintenance repairs.
Drew Wright, a technician who road bikes from New York to Portland said, “Safety is the most important thing, I make sure everything is completely safe before I return it.”
Though the Portland Bike Station has transformed dramatically into a fully-functional bike shop, it’s not quite up to par yet. As of now, bike parts are in short supply and need to be ordered for many of the repairs.
Luckily, Sims’ team of five paid employees and numerous volunteers are dedicated to making sure the shop is a success, and they are writing several grants to find money for more parts.
“What do you give someone that gave you everything?” said Hilton, speaking of Sims, his business partner for the past four years. Though recovery comes first for Hilton, his heart is in the Bike Station. “My dream is to see my buddy get his dream- and that’s my dream also.”