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Shop has new spokes(man)

Hancock bicycle business goes to essay contest winner from Ohio

Hancock bicycle business goes to essay contest winner from Ohio

April 25, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - Pamela and George Whetzel couldn't sell their dreams and passions.

So they gave them away.

On Sunday, the Whetzels celebrated the transfer of their bike shop to an Ohio family who has promised to love it as much as they have.

"I think we're just overwhelmed. It's nothing you would expect to happen," Judy Hudson, 34, said as her husband, Dennis, leaned over a fire-engine red bike at C&O Bicycle in Hancock.

Dennis Hudson, 40, will start work next week after the Whetzels selected him as the winner of an essay contest to become the new owner of their store.

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According to Pamela Whetzel, only nine people entered the contest.

Contest rules required applicants to discuss their experience and desire to run a bike shop. They paid a fee of $250 each to enter, Pam Whetzel said.

She conceded the contest, which began in December, was a bit unorthodox. The Whetzels said they don't care.

"Even our lawyer told us we were crazy to do it," Pamela Whetzel said as she leafed through applicants' envelopes bearing postmarks from Texas, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"I want the world to know not everything is about money," Pamela Whetzel said.

The Whetzels will collect rent from Hudson for the building where the bike shop is housed. Hudson, though, will control the inventory and own several business offshoots, including bunkhouses the Whetzels operated behind the store for bike travelers.

A limousine with a bike rack on the roof sat in front of the store Sunday. The Whetzels, who rekindled their relationship at the shop several years ago after losing touch, bought the vehicle to haul bikes for weddings.

Pamela Whetzel estimates the store's inventory of rentals, two-person bikes and easy-on-the-back recumbents at $75,000. She said Hudson will get it all.

"I don't know if his feet have touched the ground yet," Judy Hudson said as her husband inspected bicycles.

A sales mechanic at Century Cycles in Rocky River, Ohio, on Cleveland's west side, Dennis Hudson said he has worked at bike stores for about 15 years.

He said he'll never forget his experience as a boy picking out a new bike. He even rode it through winter storms.

"I can remember just riding that bike everywhere. Literally," Hudson said.

George Whetzel, 62, said bicycling has been his lifelong hobby, too.

Owning the shop and living along the C&O Canal trails was a "lifelong dream," he said.

Whetzel, who has worked in bike shops most of his life, said he wanted to pay back the industry.

Hudson said he never will forget the employees he met as a child, gazing for the first time at his new red 10-speed. In his essay, he wrote, "Driving by the old abandoned building brings me back to that day when I was treated like an important customer instead of just a child."

He wants to live for a while above his new store. Judy Hudson, a teacher, and the couple's 21/2-year-old son, will move to Maryland in the summer.

"This was our way of keeping it in the business. There's a lot of hardworking mechanics out there who can never make enough money to start (a store) up, and this was our way of doing that," Pamela Whetzel said.

The Whetzels said they wanted to be sure the new owner of their shop would be committed to cycling. They and their son, Chauncey, 8, intend to take to the trails and travel. Pamela said she is selling whatever doesn't fit in the family's motor home. She does not want to settle down again.

"God gave us too much stuff to look at," Pamela Whetzel said.

While the Whetzels had originally said they hoped 1,000 people would apply for the shop, George Whetzel just wants to know his dream is on the right track.

"It's keeping the dream alive is what we're doing," George Whetzel said.

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