April 24, 2014

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Dale Winfree, owner of Dale’s Bike Shop in Oberlin, is closing shop

OBERLIN — Dale Winfree loves to soak up the beauty of nature while riding a bike.

But for years, he just never found the time.

He was too busy repairing and selling them.

But now after 30 years in the bicycle sales, service and repair business, he’s going to have plenty of time.

Owner of Dale’s Bike Shop on U.S. Route 20 near Oberlin, Winfree, 57, can see the retirement light at the end of the tunnel.

His last day in business is April 20. The date is evidenced by the ample number of yellow sale tags affixed to bikes of all sorts sitting on the floor and hanging from racks in his store.

“I began to close a few years ago when we shut up our store in Amherst but it didn’t happen,” Winfree said from a vintage office sporting walls of boxes of bicycle locks, chains, mirrors, kickstands, pump hoses and lots more.

He credits a growing online eBay business for his decision to finally retire.

“I’m selling all over the country and outside it,” Winfree said.

“I have an app that alerts me anytime I make a sale,” he said. “A guy in London just bought a part that removes crank bearings.

“I get paid immediately, and he’s happy and I’m happy,” Winfree said.

“Now we can go camping, riding bikes, hiking and canoeing … and make sales at the same time,” Winfree said, referring to his wife of 25 years, Linda, a fellow nature lover. Marveling at the freedom afforded by an online business, Winfree smiled and said, “I was sweating in my sauna and made two sales.”

Carrying on a business he learned from his father, Andrew, as a fourth-grader, Dale Winfree first opened his Route 20 shop in 1983 in space he rented from his parents.

After 14 years there, he moved operations to a much bigger store at an Amherst shopping plaza.

Winfree spent seven years there before closing that store in 2003 and coming back to his original location.

“My dad would pick up old clunkers and fix them and sell them to neighborhood kids for cheap,” Winfree said.

At the peak of the business in the late 1990s, Winfree estimates he was selling 1,000 bikes a year.

“Some people do it as a sport, while others do it for fitness,” Winfree said.

Biking also has caught on with families, as well as older folks.

“It’s amazing how many people as they get older and their kids leave home want to get out and ride for fitness.”

The shop has worked out a deal with another longtime area bike shop, Marty’s Bike Shop in Avon Lake, to provide tune-ups and other work for bikes sold by Winfree.

His cluttered back office also contains symbols of Winfree’s other passions, including a faded poster advertising $4.50 tickets for a 1968 Oklahoma concert by Jimi Hendrix, and a red electric guitar and big set of speakers.

“I just love music,” Winfree said with a big grin.

He and his brother, Mark, love to get together and jam.

“And not just the old classics, but some of the newer stuff from the ’90s,” Winfree said with a laugh.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.