Meet Your Merchant: Eager to keep bicycles out of the landfill, Aaron Hotchkiss wants to fix your old bike
127 Neal St. (across from Del Oro Theatre)
9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
For Aaron Hotchkiss, it’s always been about bikes. But as he grew up and became a more sophisticated cyclist, he was eager to experience more than the flatlands of his hometown of Sacramento.
He set out to explore the beach towns of California, where he studied at various community colleges, raced cross-country bikes competitively and was able to cover his tuition and living expenses by working as a bike mechanic.
Along the way he also became a licensed contractor and a master at custom wrought iron, a successful yet physically demanding field that, after becoming a single father in Grass Valley, was no longer a good fit. He saw a niche in Nevada County’s thriving cycling community — a need for a good bike mechanic for the everyday bike enthusiast.
“My philosophy has always been to keep bikes out of the landfill,” said Hotchkiss. “I wanted to be the guy you can come to with the bike that’s been sitting under the deck for five years and see it reborn. Bikes are one of the greatest inventions ever made. Our economy and health as a nation would improve if more people starting riding. Bikes are kind to the earth, fun, a great work out and — for the most part — affordable.”
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Hotchkiss happened upon what he calls the perfect location — a small shop on Neal Street in Grass Valley, across from the Del Oro Theatre. Its proximity to the public library around the corner was key, as his two young sons were avid book lovers. He also wanted enough space for a cozy nook where his boys could take naps.
LEAP OF FAITH
Utilizing his skills as an iron worker, Hotchkiss spent three months fabricating the fixtures and bike racks for his new store, as well as installing a new floor. In April of 2015 he ripped the paper down off his front windows and “Bike Stuff” was open for business. Taking a leap of faith and opening a small business is a decision Hotchkiss says he hasn’t regretted. The store quickly became known as a family-friendly store that is accessible to those who are new to the sport of cycling, re-discovering it after many years, or the select few who are able to indulge in high-end equipment.
While Hotchkiss primarily focuses on repairs and tune-ups, he also sells a limited selection of affordable new bikes and accessories. It’s a simple business formula, and he likes it that way, he said.
“I love serving kids and recreational riders who don’t have a million dollars,” he said. “I love that I can be here to help the people who aren’t ready to spend $1,500 on a bike and just want to start riding. Online sales have been a super-crusher for local businesses. But I do occasionally assemble bikes that have been ordered online.”
Originally convinced he would only be serving Grass Valley cyclists, Hotchkiss was pleased to learn that riders from all over Nevada County are now seeking out his skill and expertise. It’s clear he has a passion for what he does.
“The truth is I just like to work on bikes — it’s really relaxing for my mind,” said Hotchkiss. “I cater to kids, families, weekend warriors and retirees who don’t aspire to race. I’m not concerned about the glitz. I get it — I’m a single dad. My life is all about my kids and this store.”
Contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher at Cory@theunion.com or 530-477-4203.
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