Essay could determine shop owner

December 10, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HANCOCK - Whoever writes the best essay - and pays $250 - might win Pamela and George Whetzel's bicycle shop.

The Whetzels are ready to give up C&O Bicycle, which has been open for about three years at 9 Pennsylvania Ave., between two major bike paths.

Pamela Whetzel figured that the business is worth about $250,000. But simply selling the shop doesn't guarantee that it will continue as they'd like it to be, she said.

So, starting next week, the Whetzels are holding an essay contest to pick the new owner.

If they receive at least 1,000 entries at $250 per entry - generating a minimum of $250,000 - they will hand over their business to the writer who impresses them the most.


"I'd like to be able to handpick someone to take over my dream," Pamela Whetzel said.

She said she got the idea from a 1996 movie, "The Spitfire Grill," in which a character holds a similar contest for her restaurant.

The Whetzels' winning package includes the bicycle shop, with its "hippie shop" and general store; a garden center; and a bunkhouse.

Land is not included, Pamela Whetzel said. The winner will rent the property from them.

Whetzel said she and her husband, who regularly ride bicycles, want to put work behind them for now.

"We are going to get a motor home and ride every trail in the U.S.," she said.

The couple has nine children - together and from previous marriages - but none appears interested in taking over the shop.

The panel of essay judges will be the Whetzels, a Western Maryland Rail Trail volunteer ranger and a Hancock Elementary School teacher.

Entrants must explain, in no more than 400 words, "how they would promote bicycling for fun and health; how they would use their experience to help new and experienced cyclists and hikers in need of repair or assistance along the nearly 200 miles of area trails; and how owning the shop would change their lives and be a dream come true," the shop's Web site says.

Content, grammar, spelling and presentation will be considered.

The essay contest will run from Dec. 15, 2004, to April 15, 2005. Whetzel said 10 finalists will be chosen. Then, the winner will be picked April 30.

On May 1, the Whetzels will turn over their shop.

Instead of C&O Bicycle - with a symbol - the couple recently started calling the shop CANDO Bicycle, as in "can do." They've played off the name in the theme of their contest: "What can you do for CANDO Bicycle to make our dream your dream?"

Entrants must be at least 18 years old. Only one writer may be listed per entry.

The Whetzels hope to get wide publicity for their contest through bicycle publications, news media, their Web site ( and the town government.

The rules cover the possibility that the contest falls flat.

The Whetzels have reserved the right to cancel or extend the contest by up to 60 days if they don't receive at least 1,000 entries by April 15. If the contest is canceled, the couple will refund $225 of each entry and keep $25 to cover expenses, Pamela Whetzel said.

Pamela Whetzel, 45, used to baby-sit George Whetzel's three teenage daughters. She has said she and George dated off and on for 30 years.

In 2001, George Whetzel, 61, moved his bicycle shop from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., to Hancock.

Pamela Whetzel visited the shop on a Monday. They went on a date two days later. Then, two days after their date, they got engaged.

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