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As the Wheels Turn

Silver City's two bike shops keep riders going. Plus: Gas up for Jesus, Walgreen's mystery, new flight plans, hospitality news and more.

Spotlight on…

Gila Hike & Bike andTwin Sisters Cycling and Fitness.

With the 21st annual Tour of the Gila bike race rolling into Silver City this month (see "40 Days and 40 Nights" section for story and schedule), it seems timely to focus on the town's long-established bike shops, Gila Hike & Bike and Twin Sisters Cycling and Fitness. Locals and visitors alike head to these shops to keep their wheels in spin, all the better to enjoy the temperate weather and wide variety of terrain of this biking paradise.

To step into Gila Hike & Bike is to become an advocate for the great outdoors. Along with a full array of gleaming, road- and trail-ready new bikes, the shop also carries detailed product lines of camping and hiking supplies, racks of outdoor and active wear, trail maps and guide books, and even inspirational outdoor-themed art.

Jack Brennan and Mike Sauber of Gila Hike & Bike.

"That's what it's about, right there," says Mike Sauber, who started the business 19 years ago with his long-time friend and business partner Jack Brennan (who's also co-director of the Tour of the Gila). Sauber is pointing out a framed print entitled "Destination Sun," a bright, light-hearted print by Victoria Christian of a woman riding a bike up a winding trail into a range of mountains, the brilliant yellow sun ahead of her. "It's about the freedom and the joy," Sauber continues. "It's the exhilaration of riding a bike, and of just being in the great outdoors." The shop sells the prints, matted and ready for framing, and Sauber adds that they've secured the right to have T-shirts printed with the image—coming soon, he promises.

Hike & Bike's customers range from locals who bike to commute or for exercise and adventure, to tourists trekking the Continental Divide Trail or biking the Southern Tier Route favored by the Adventure Cycling club. To satisfy all these customers' various needs, the shop carries everything from meal bars to Camelbak hydration packs for biking or hiking, from windbreakers to fancy thermal underwear. Practically a whole shelf is filled with nothing but socks of all sorts—skinny shorties for biking, light hikers for, say, trips up Gomez or jaunts to Hummingbird Saddle, or "woolies" for altitude climbers. There are hiking shoes and rugged sandals of all descriptions, and an array of Falcon Guide books, and magazines and maps to take the enthusiasts far afield or deep into their own backyards.

Shoppers will also find an assortment of bumper stickers and T-shirts, some inspiring, others irreverent. "People are always welcome to a dose of my liberal politics," Sauber says with a laugh and kindly smile.

In addition to the great outdoors in general, Sauber and Brennan are deep into bike advocacy. Sauber works with the Bike Advocacy Group (BAG), lobbying for bike lanes, bike routes for local kids to ride to school, and safer streets for all on two wheels. He thanks Silver City public works director Peter Peña, who was instrumental in getting the bike lanes around town maintained and swept out for safety. And Brennan is "out of the shop at least half the year working on the Tour of the Gila," Sauber says. The shop also has applications at the counter, ready for folks who'd like to join the local Silver Spokes Bicycle Club.

On the mechanical end of things, Sauber says the shop's main goal with any bike customer is to make sure the rider is comfortable. New bikes have to be the right bikes, and old bikes can be retrofitted and made more comfortable.

"If they're not comfortable, they won't ride," Sauber says. To that end, Hike & Bike does all manner of handlebar conversions, seat replacements and adjustments and so on. The shop employs three bike mechanics, and the conversation wouldn't be complete without letting Sauber rave about them: Bill Schum worked for many years at a pro shop in California, he says. Dave Baker is also an advocate for kids getting up on two wheels, and leads the Saturday morning rides originating at Penny Park. Tsama Parons-Pineda, the newcomer to the team, just finished getting his engineering degree.

On the back wall of the store hangs a poster with a breathtaking outdoor view, advocating for protecting the wilderness with a quote by Edward Abbey: "The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders."

Getting out into that wilderness is what it's about at Gila Hike & Bike, and Sauber and Brennan are ready with their crew to help all comers find whatever gear they need to get them there.

Gila Hike & Bike, 103 E. College Ave., Silver City; open Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; 388-3222.

 

At Twin Sisters Cycling and Fitness, it's all about the bike. "It's all I know," jokes owner and sole employee Annie Crawford. Her workshirt dotted with grease, fingers deep into the gears of a bike under repair, she adds, "This, right here, is where I'm happiest."

Crawford started working professionally on bikes in 1987, as a mechanic in shops in Portland, Ore. and Everett, Wash., and worked at Gila Hike & Bike for three years after moving to Silver City nearly 12 years ago. Though her store carried some heavy duty fitness equipment—treadmills and the like—when she first opened eight years ago, she's since narrowed her focus to bikes only, carrying new bikes and all the parts and accessories, as well as clothing. She does still lay in a stock of fitness-related electronics, such as heart-rate monitors, pedometers, cyclometers and stopwatches, and resistance training equipment, from steel plates and dumbbells to elastic bands and balls.

Annie Crawford of Twin Sisters.

She says her first love is being a bike mechanic—keeping bikes of all sorts in top running order, restoring and upgrading old bikes her customers dig out of the backs of their garages, and helping folks custom-make a bike to suit their needs. She points out a new bike sitting on the floor, custom designed and ordered for a customer, elaborating on the special features and parts she chose for him, based on his needs, unique physique and biking goals. "It's a custom-built machine," she says.

Crawford offers a four-week class in basic bike maintenance and repair for about $50 on an as-needed basis, usually annually. "It happens whenever I can get four students to agree on one night per week for four weeks," she says with a smile. She's taught a Saab mechanic and an eye surgeon who "were afraid to touch their bikes," she says. But teaching folks which end of the wrench is up and how to fix their own flats doesn't mean they no longer need her expert services.

"If anything, it makes them more appreciative of what I do," she says. "And it just makes them better, safer bike enthusiasts to build their confidence in trailside maintenance and emergency repairs—you know, flats and stuff."

Speaking of flats, Crawford offers the "Twin Sisters' Famous Two Year Flat Fix Guarantee." For $30, she'll replace both of a bike's tires with thorn-resistant tubes with a shot of True Goo sealer. If the customer gets a flat within two years of the service, Crawford repairs it for free.

"It's a big issue out here," says Crawford, making reference to the infamous local "goathead" thorns—also called "puncture vine," and for good reason! "I've done over 2,000 of these now, and haven't had any complaints."

As for advocacy, Crawford says her main goal is to keep enthusiasts riding and safe. She is the director/coordinator of the Silver Spokes Bike Club's Gila Inner Loop Bicycle Tour (this year's event is Sept. 8-9), and also is helping to sponsor the Category 5 "Team Sixes and Sevens" in this year's Tour of the Gila. She proudly holds up a jersey for the team, showing her shop's logo.

"I don't know why they call the team that," she says with a laugh. Local orthopedist Brian Robinson of Southwest Bone and Joint is one of the riders, along with his son, Michael, medical professional Will Hopwood and Shawn Hall, a recent WNMU graduate who worked in Crawford's shop for five years.

Crawford recommends the usual schedule for bike maintenance—a tune-up once a year for occasional bikers, twice a year for more avid, active cyclists—and an overhaul for everyone every two years, or for anyone hauling an unused bike out of the back of the garage. "Believe it or not, grease dries out," she explains. She gives free estimates and turns around most jobs next day.

At the front of the shop stand a couple of bikes that, indeed, seem to have been dusted off and hauled in.

"Oh, that one's mine," she says of an old around-town cruiser that looks positively ancient, two new tires slung over its handlebars. "I'm hoping to get to it one day, but obviously, it's going to need a chunk of time." She looks at the line-up of bikes in her shop, and agrees with a laugh that her own ancient cruiser may just have to wait until she retires.

Twin Sisters Cycling and Fitness, 303 N. Bullard St., Silver City; open Tue.-Sat., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; www.twinsisterscycling.com, 538-3388.

 

Open for Business

Robert Parra, former manager at the now-closed Caballeros restaurant in Arenas Valley, has opened up Robert's Real Estate. A qualifying broker with over 22 years experience in the California real estate market, Parra will have as his first listing his old restaurant. In fact, his temporary office is in the facility's old banquet room. 313-5579.

Help-NM: Workforce Development Division, a government agency, has taken up residence in the storefront at 505-A N. Bullard St. in Silver City, previously occupied by the Restorative Justice non-profit group.

Cheeky Baby, selling "clothing for the upscale baby," has opened at 2521 Avenida de Mesilla in Mesilla, 526-1380.

In and Out Gas, part of a Christian ministry, has opened at the corner of Solano and Ridgetop in Las Cruces, offering free coffee to fill up its customers. Petrol purchases fuel the group's family worship and praise center. 526-7737.

Rickie Beckner, who recently opened Restless Native Skate Shop on Bullard Street in downtown Silver City, has just opened Restless Natives Construction Company. Handling everything from flooring to porches to small repairs and outside work, Beckner is working with three other people "to do the small jobs that the big guys don't want to do." 534-4599.

"Green builder" Rick Bohart, who has run his company Poco Loco Enterprises out in Cliff for three-and-a-half years, has expanded into Silver City, building a show home in Wind Canyon Estates. Bohart is a commercial general contractor with more than 40 years in the business. 313-4224.

Elizabeth Colson has opened Physician Search Solutions in Silver City, a search firm matching physicians to medical establishments and practices. 313-5559.

David L. Anderson has moved his company Enchanted Trails Plumbing into Silver City proper and opened an office at 1455 Hwy. 180 E., Suites C&D, in Lois Lane Plaza. Anderson and crew do plumbing installations in new construction.

rue21, a youthful clothing retailer, has opened in the Mesilla Valley Mall, next to the Foot Locker store. The company's Web site says it gets its name from the word "rue," French for "street" and "21" being the age everyone wants to be.

 

Heads in Beds

Silver City's Inn on Broadway is on the market for $795,000. After thoroughly renovating and restoring the historic four-room bed-and-breakfast, owners Sandy Hicks and Ron Belanger say selling the inn was part of their five-year business plan for the property, and that the turnkey business is ready for the next innkeeper "who wants to be part of Silver City's historic downtown and its revival."

Drury Inn & Suites is building a Las Cruces location on Hickory Loop near the SpringHill Suites, adding to sleeping options in the neighborhood. The 73-room hotel will open later this year and will be the firm's second location in the Land of Enchantment.

And the Hampton Inn is edging ever closer to that long-awaited opening. The new 73-room facility, estimated to have cost $3 million to build, originally hoped to open last November but has had to push back the date several times. General manager Belia Alvarez confirms the facility is now in the final phase of completion and will have a soft opening in early May, followed by a grand opening about two weeks later.

 

Bigger and Better

Silver Imaging, the film and digital photo store at 215 W. College Ave. in Silver City, has added a new online photo-ordering system. George Austin, who co-owns the store with his wife Melinda, says, "It's like having a photo kiosk in your own home. You just go to the Web site, order your pictures online, and then you can either pick them up here or have them mailed to your home." The service also enables customers to create specialty items, such as greeting cards, mugs or calendars, from their personal photos, to share photos with friends and family online, and to create a personalized photo book. Online at silverimaging.lifepics.com, 538-8658.

Second Chance, a store dealing in antiques and collectibles at 102 Hurley Ave. in Bayard, at the corner of Central Avenue, is expanding its charitable mission of clothing donations to those in need, and soon hopes to add a food pantry. The organization just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Owners Daniel and Margie Espinosa say Second Chance is looking for donations of all kinds, including decorative and home items, and gives out bags of clothing, by type and size, every Saturday morning, 10 a.m.-12 noon. 537-3116.

 

New Owners

Vicki Sexton has bought Flowerings, a florist shop on Yankie Street in downtown Silver City. "I just decided to take the plunge," Sexton says of her decision to buy the shop, where she's worked alongside previous owner Bill Nolde for several months. The two also worked together at Lusk Flowers & Gifts, another Silver City flower business. Nolde will continue to work in the shop. 534-4514.

Compass Components, a Freemont, Calif.-based electronics and manufacturing company, has purchased the recently defunct Sparton Technology's Las Cruces building, along with much of its equipment and inventory, and plans to hire back employees that Sparton laid off. Compass Components anticipates it will eventually employ 75 people at the site.

 

Coming Soon

Ken Nickolson has confirmed that his development company, KED Southwest Inc., is going ahead and building a 21,000-square-foot shopping center next to the Dollar General store on Hwy. 180 E. in Silver City. Nickolson claims to have secured four national commercial tenants for 17,000 feet of the space, but refuses to name the tenants at this time. Walgreen's has been speculated to be in the mix, but as reported in this column last year, the proposed highway construction has caused some prospective tenants to hold back on signing on the dotted line. So both construction, and the mystery, continue.

The Copper Quail gallery will open by late May, hopefully in time for Silver City's Blues Festival, in the space on Texas Street recently vacated by Bloomin' Gourdworks.

Mesilla Valley Habitat for Humanity will open a new ReStore at 2301 S. Main St. in Las Cruces, the site occupied by San Saba Pecans prior to its relocation, in June. The ReStore will offer primarily new and used building materials, gently used furnishings and newer appliances. Some products donated to the store will be used in building Habitat homes locally, while other goods will be sold to the public at up to 75 percent off retail. Donations of goods and cash are accepted. Open Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 525-0475.

 

Happy Anniversary

Home Furniture, at 207 S. Bullard St., is marking its 70th anniversary as a family-owned retail furniture and appliance business in downtown Silver City. Nelson Wygant, who opened the company with his partner E. L. McCoy of Hanover, bought McCoy out in 1941 and greatly expanded the business. At one time, the company had display rooms in the basement of the Isaac Cohen building at the corner of Broadway and Bullard Streets, and survived a warehouse fire at another location just south of town. The Wygants opened Bargain Annex, a warehouse and supplementary store that was located at 703 N. Bullard St., now the home of Western Stationers. In 1962, Bargain Annex moved up the street to Home Furniture's current location. Along with current manager Scott Kennedy and certified home furnishing consultant Denise Kennedy, Home Furniture employs seven people. 538-3767.

 

Ch-ch-changes!

After an outcry by the community for air service to Albuquerque, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has ordered Silver City's EAS (essential air services) package out for re-bidding. A contract with Great Lakes Airlines would have switched the service from Albuquerque to Phoenix. While Grant County officials had expressed hopes for added service to Phoenix, local businesspersons and lawmakers routinely need air service to Albuquerque. The only other applicant for the EAS package for Silver City was Pacific Wings, which withdrew its bid before the process was finished; former flight supplier Mesa Airlines didn't submit a bid. Silver City attorney Robert Scavron petitioned for the reconsideration, and credits the effort of Sen. Jeff Bingaman and a letter by Thomas D. Baca, director of the DOT's Aviation Division, with allowing the previous decision to be vacated and the service reconsideration to be pushed forward.

H&S Electric/MCJ Company at 1605 N. Corbin St. in Silver City has split into two entities. Julie Robertson is listed at the owner of the new H&S Electric, LLC, and MCJ Company Ind., selling industrial supplies, is owned by Ann C. Gephart. 388-2958.

Jones & Co. Jewelers, the long-established Las Cruces jewelry store that just celebrated its 38th anniversary, has moved to 1300 El Paseo, next to Walgreen's. 526-2809.

 

Send your business news to donna@desertexposure.com.

 

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