Bicycle shops were among the list of businesses considered as essential and eligible to stay open when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's stay-at-home order began March 23.

"Part of the reason shops like ours were considered essential is that bikes are a mode of transportation some people need to use," Heritage Cycles co-owner Josh Stamper said.

But there is another aspect to the essential issue, he said.

"People need a way to stay active and to be able to get out and do something when so many things, schools and gyms, are closed," Stamper said. "Bicycles offer a simple, fun way to keep active."

Like other bicycle shops, business at Heritage Cycles, 3449 Grove City Road, Grove City, has been booming the past couple months, he said.

"We're seeing a record number of sales and a record number of service requests," Stamper said. "I do know our revenue is about double what it normally would be this time of the year."

By early May, the shop had already sold as many bicycles as it would during a normal spring and summer season, he said.

"A lot of warehouses around the country are just about out of their supply of bikes," Stamper said. "It's amazing."

The shop has reduced the hours it's open, but that doesn't mean a reduction in work, he said.

"We don't open until noon on weekdays, but we need the morning hours to try to catch up on all the repair jobs we have," Stamper said.

Mechanic Thomas Kirkbride's schedule expanded to full time just before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic hit, he said.

Kirkbride said he's working overtime to complete repairs.

"It's insane," he said. "I'm probably spending 55 hours a week working on repairs."

Many people have brought in bicycles that have been sitting unused in their garages for years, Kirkbride said.

"I'm doing mostly small repairs," he said. "There are a lot of flat tires, and we do a lot of work on brake cables or gear cables that have rusted because the bikes have been sitting idle."

"People seem really grateful that we're open," Stamper said. "They want to get out and enjoy their bikes again."

Kirkbride's wife, Tiffany, works part time, greeting customers who bring their bicycles in for repairs or are looking to purchase one.

"What I hear a lot of people say is that since gyms are closed, there's not a lot to do, and they decided to take out their bikes again or come in to buy a new bike," she said.

"What I love is seeing that smile on people's face when they test out a bike," Tiffany Kirkbride said. "You know, they say you never forget how to ride a bike. It all comes back to you instantly."

"I look at my job as not fixing bikes but helping to put smiles on people's faces," Thomas Kirkbride said. "Every time I turn a wrench, I feel like I'm that much closer to making someone smile."

The Kirkbrides ride their own bicycles along some of Grove City's 26 miles of bike trails nearly every day.

There is no doubt a greater number of people are riding their bicycles these days, Tiffany Kirkbride said.

"We're seeing so many more people along the trails than we used to," she said.

Stamper said he sees the same thing as he rides his bicycle to the shop each day or takes pleasure rides.

"Even on the country roads around town, I'm seeing more people out and about on their bikes," he said.

"A lot of families are taking the time to ride together, and I think that's great. It's a trend I hope will continue even after the pandemic is over and things get back to normal."

Heritage Cycles has implemented some temporary changes at the store, including allowing one customer in the building at one time and asking customers not to browse when they are in the store.

"We can usually figure out what kind of bike they're looking for if we talk with them ahead of time and bring it out to them to check out," Stamper said.

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