Paul Johnson and bicycles share a life-long connection.
He met his wife while riding a bike; he traveled with the U.S. Olympic Cycling team as a mechanic; and for the last 10 years Johnson has been a staple at Classic Cycle, the world-renowned bike shop located on Bainbridge.
Johnson, and his wife Jaime Amador, this month completed a deal to buy the shop from former owner Jeff Groman, furthering Johnson’s bipedal bond.
“I just love bicycles,” he said. “Riding them is pretty fun, but I just love the objects themselves.”
Groman said he sold the shop because he wanted to pursue interests related to historical documentation of cycling. Groman has already helped produce a documentary, “Six-Day Bicycle Race” about the glamour and notoriety of annual cycle races in the 1920s and ‘30s. He is now working on several other projects, including a screenplay for a feature film.
Groman’s influence is clear throughout the store, which is filled with vintage bikes dating back to 80 years ago, historical newspaper clips and awards won before the Great Depression.
Johnson and Groman have had bicycles in their lives since childhood. Johnson began working in bike shops at the age of 14 in Minnesota, and Groman’s family owned what he called the “best racing shop in the U.S.” in New Jersey.
As a child, Groman was exposed to racers and racing memorabilia from as far back as the 1920s. The influence of historical cycling has stuck with him to this day, and now he is ready to share that with others.
“I’ve become a historian,” he said. “Preservation of the stories and the stuff has become very important to me.”
Johnson worked with Groman to create a historical haven at the shop and expressed interest in being the next owner to preserve the tradition. They hatched a plan of secession this past Super Bowl Sunday but kept it quiet for months as they were unsure how long the transfer would take.
Johnson took over less than a month ago, and it has been an adjustment for the man who has spent his whole life fixing bicycles and not worrying about the rest of the business. Luckily, Amador, who currently works as an event coordinator for IslandWood, is on the team.
“I couldn’t do it without her,” he said. “She’s taking care of all the parts of the bike business that I, over 25 years, never learned.”
Despite new ownership, Johnson said, the iconic cycle shop won’t lose its identity. The staff will remain the same, including Groman.
“I’ll stay forever if they’ll have me,” he said.
The shop will continue to focus on historical cycling elements, while adding a couple new vendors and beginning a program to donate some percentage of proceeds to bicycle advocacy groups.
The store first opened in 1985 in Kingston. Groman kept the business there until 2001 when he moved to Bainbridge. Johnson was one of his first hires. Groman always admired the work Johnson did on the bikes and with the customers, so the decision to hand the business over to his long-time right-hand man wasn’t as tough as it could have been.
“I felt really comfortable handing over the reins because everyone in there is a career guy; it’s not a hobby for them,” Groman said.
For most of the years the store has been on Bainbridge, it’s been a two-man operation: Groman and Johnson. But the addition of several new staff members has only increased the store’s reach.
Classic Cycle employs a former professional bike racer, Gavin O’Grady, and a current pro in Zach McDonald. The two of them along with Kevin Markham and Daniel Harmon make a close-knit staff that will continue to provide the same levels of service for years to come, Johnson said.