By CHRISTINE L. PRATT
MILLERSBURG -- "I've been mechanically minded since I was a child, tearing apart stuff and putting it back together," according to Alvin Raber, owner of Raber's Bike Shop.
"I enjoy biking and always dreamed of owning a nice bike, and I enjoy the challenge of keeping a business like this going," he said.
And going it is.
In 2006 Raber turning his childish tinkering into a part-time job, fixing bikes and selling limited cycles and accessories out of a small shop along Township Road 328. In April, he moved the operation to 6515 state Route 241, Millersburg.
With the different types of bikes clustered together inside the large display room, "it's interesting to walk through," he said.
There are racing bikes, road bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes, unicycles, recumbent bikes, three-wheelers, strollers, trailers and utility carts, as well as a variety of children's bicycles. He stocks an assortment of accessories, the most common of which are bags, baskets, racks and lights. There's also biking shorts, pedals, shorts, gloves, helmets, eye protection, safety gear, car and truck racks and the various tools necessary to properly care for a bike.
Although they do repairs at the shop and recommend annual tuneups for bikes, Raber said he and his staff will happily show customers how to take care of their own bikes. He shrugs off the suggestion doing so cuts into his repair business, saying he's more concerned with satisfying the customer.
When they make repairs, they stand by their work, offering a five-month warranty on all services, Raber said, noting with three trained repairmen, the turnaround time for most jobs is one-two days.
While he said he stocks something for everyone, there's one thing he doesn't have.
"We do not stoop to low quality," he said. With brands like Giant, Marin and Bianchi, all the bikes sold at the shop come with a lifetime warranty on the frame.
"We give a fair deal, but offer more than just a purchase. We want it to be an experience," he said, noting the store's staff takes the time to work with customers to select and properly fit the bike to the rider.
It's his approach to the customers Raber credits for helping his business grow at such a rapid pace, allowing him to reach his five-10-year goal in just a few short years.
Eric Strouse has been regularly riding a road bike for three years. He picked up the sport with the formation of a local bike group, which gathers to ride together every Wednesday.
While he used to take his bike to Wooster for service, he was forced to take his business elsewhere when the Wooster shop closed.
Raber replaced his tires and serviced his bike and "did an excellent job of doing everything for me," said Strouse, who is excited to have a shop so close to home.
"It's nice to have a place for quick repairs. If you need a tire, a new chain, something fixed, you can drop it off there and get it back pretty quick. If you've got someone who needs a bike, you don't need to go clear to Wooster for it."
"The new store is very nice. He has all kinds of space to show off the bikes that he has for our kind of riding around here," Strouse said. "His store's really going to help a lot. It's nice. He has everything."
The shop also rents bikes for an hourly or daily rate, said Raber, who is working with several local lodging establishments to broaden the opportunities offered to tourists, many of whom are looking to enjoy a ride on the Holmes County Trail.
To that end, Raber also operates a small shop inside the Millersburg Depot, where people can rent bikes or make smaller purchases. The depot store is open through the summer months, Tuesdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Fridays, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturdays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
The main store is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturdays, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information about the store, products, or rental needs, call and leave a message at 330-674-0560, Ext. 3.
Reporter Christine L. Pratt can be reached at 330-674-1811 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.