In the tiny town of Hampton, NY lies a Bike Shop that is changing the world.
I’d been living in Poultney, a small traditional Vermont town, for four years before leaving on my kayak trip, but it was during the first few months that I had met the wife of Tim Johnson who owns Johnson and Son Bikeworks. She was hard to miss , biking around our little town pulling a huge green trailer behind her bicycle with a little kid sitting on it surrounded by multiple 5 gallon pails. At first I thought they were from Green Mountain College as many of the students and faculty bike, but I had to find out so I followed her.
At her next stop, I got out out of my car to talk to her. They were in town shopping and picking up scraps from the restaurants for their chickens, thus the 5 gallon pails full of food scraps. She told me about her husband’s shop just down the road and across the state line. A year later I rode my bicycle by it, but I didn’t stop as the sign said they were closed for the day.
This time, I wasn’t riding by. This time it was my destination and I was hoping to get the parts I needed to get my trailer hooked up to the bike. I figured this would be the right place since I remember his wife pulling that trailer all those years ago. We pulled up to the house which till looked the same, but now there was a trailer out front full of bikes and of course, that big green bicycle trailer I remembered. A sign told visitors to take the narrow path around back.
Now Johnson and Son Bikeworks isn’t like your modern bike shop and its not even like your old school bike shop, nope, Johnson and Son Bike Works is rather unique. The shop sits in a barn behind their house located on a dead end road. A tiny red crushed slate path winds it’s was along the side of the house and through their back yard. Old bikes line the path leading to a barn.
As I walked down the path, a Husband, Wife and Child were walking up the path; the wife on a new bike and the child on a tiny toddlers bike with training wheels. The child promptly got stuck riding the bicycle up the dirt path, her wheels spinning in air as the training wheels suspended it above a dip in the crushed slate. Behind them stood a tall bearded man that most would quickly identify with as a farmer from the North Country, but it turned out that this was Tim Johnson the proprietor of Johnson and Son Bikeworks. Tim told me he’d be right with me so I went inside to wait.
The barn is a barn in every sense of the word; an uninsulated building with daylight peeking under the walls and open beams above. The only thing un-barnlike would be the slate laid out on the dirt floor and of course the huge selection of bicycles hanging neatly about. I’m pretty sure there were more new bikes inside this barn than most of the shops had that I had visited over the previous month, but there was something else about this bike shop; outside, there were many more used bikes hanging up, leaning against the barn and scattered around the lawn.
Tim returned and introduced himself to me. I explained that I had just bought this used bike and had already acquired some accessories elsewhere, but I had this trailer I wanted to pull and I told him how I’d now be living car free. Tim immediately began to assist me. First thing he did was to find me a holder for my Tire Pump as I had lost that part. He then told me it was no charge. As he explained where it would mount, he grabbed an allen wrench off his work bench and simply installed it as we spoke. Next up was the hitch. He found the part I could use with the current Schwinn set up and said I could have that too – no charge. He then showed me the Burley system and as he was explaining how that worked, he installed it on my trailer. I liked the Burley system better so I bought that. He then showed me a few different back racks that would work for me.
By this time more customers had come in and I told him to help them as I looked for other accessories I needed and tried to decide on which rack I wanted. As I shopped I overheard Tim selling a bike to the customer. I’m paraphrasing here, but the results are the same. Tim told the gentlemen looking at the bike that he had test rode once or twice already that its “Satisfaction Guaranteed” Tim then went on to explain what that meant. It’s not to my satisfaction he stated, its to yours. If you are not satisfied with the bike, simply bring it back. If you want to take it for another test ride, go ahead. I want you to be comfortable with it.
These words stood out to me because if you recall, the owner of the shop were I bought my bike was annoyed at my four test rides – in his parking lot and that was when I was looking a the Five –Hundred Dollar bike, not the one I got. What a stark contrast between the two shops, but it got better.
When Tim returned to help me after the other gentlemen bought the bike, I had decided on a rack, picked out a bell and the hitch. Tim then offered me the use of the shop and shop tools – No Charge to install everything. Even things I had not gotten there. The only caveat was that if I needed his help, he’d have to charge me for his time. As generous and friendly as that was, I politely declined as I both felt funny about doing this since I hadn’t gotten everything from him and I knew I’d be taking my time as I outfitted things. He told me that I am always welcomed to come in and use the shop if I needed.
When Tim finally went to ring me up, he generously provided me with a 15% discount because I was now living car free, something the shop promotes. Something else the shop promotes…Biking to School. In addition to getting to use the shop, getting a discount on any accessories, Tim loans student’s bikes if they will ride them to school.
When I left Johnson and Son Bikeworks, I was not only enthusiastic about this new car free chapter in my life, but so thrilled to experience this concept Tim has put forward. Just outside of Poultney Vermont in the tiny town of Hampton, NY lies a Bike Shop that is changing the world…One bike at a time.
I’m glad to now be part of that world and excited to begin living car free.