Longtime customers of the Bike Club on 438 S. Washington St. will immediately notice a change when walking through its reopened doors – the space is less cluttered. Bikes are now hung up on freshly-painted light blue walls, with wheels hung along the ceiling, and there is a clear pathway to walk around the shop.
Loyal Bike Club customer Greg Keul isn’t a fan of the new, less-cluttered shop.
“I liked it better when it was kind of a junk shop,” Keul said.
The City of Falls Church felt differently. The shop had been closed since last December, after a visit from a Falls Church fire marshal who found the shop too cluttered and its doors not accessible for the disabled, business owner Phuoc Pham said.
Pham said he was first told he could keep the shop open if he cleaned it up, but later the City told him to close down the shop. He was forced to move his 500 bikes and numerous parts out of the shop while he tried to figure out how to bring the building back to code and save his business.
While the shop was closed, Pham had to work with his landlord to address other issues with the building – a leaky roof and inadequate heating, Pham said. Discouraged by these problems, Pham considered relocating to another building, but higher rents and his loyal customers convinced him to work with the City to get the building back in shape.
Bike Club patrons like Devin Hoper volunteered to help Pham clean up the shop and move the bikes back in for its reopening. Now Hoper volunteers his time at Bike Club, when he’s not working as a landscaper, to help Pham sell and repair his bikes, a skill Pham taught him years ago when he first started coming to the shop to get parts for his BMX bikes.
“No other bike shop would do anything like that,” Hoper said. “He’s a good mechanic, taught me well, taught me all the parts I needed to know” to repair bikes.
No other bike shop also has the kind of stock that Bike Club has, said Chris Marchetti. He’s looking for tires to repair a bike from the 1930s and thinks that Pham will be able to help him out.
He didn’t consider going to another bike store because “every bike store has the same stuff,” Marchetti said. “So if you want something that’s for an older bike or is just not as commonly sought after, they don’t stock that anymore.”
Pham wasn’t able to find the tires Marchetti needed for his bike, but is sure he has them in storage.
Pham says it could take around six months for him to organize the stockpile of parts he had to take out of his shop.
Pham started his business repairing bikes on the streets, eventually setting up shop at his current location in 1997 at a former pizza delivery shop. He opened the shop with parts for only five bikes and steadily grew it into the large bike shop it is today.
While some start a business to be their own boss, Pham started Bike Club to do what he loves – repairing bikes and interacting with customers.
“My dream is just to try to help people,” Pham said. “That’s my job to do for a living. You want a good mechanic, this is good place to come and hang out.”
Whether making small repairs for a customer who can’t pay, or training kids on how to fix their bikes, Pham enjoys repairing bikes and creating a welcoming environment for bike enthusiasts.
He remains optimistic now that Bike Shop has reopened, but is still waiting on action from the landlord to ensure that all his permits are approved, Pham said.