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Bike shop in Midway is on a mission

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Calvin


Mister Michael Recycles 08Shop owners Michael and Benita Warns have a lot in common. They own a business together: Mister Michael Recycles Bicycles at 520 Prior Ave. N. They’re “tandem people,” who enjoy riding their bicycle built for two. They’re both engineers, they abhor waste, and they really like giving away recycled bikes.

By their own estimates, they’ve given away more than 4,000 bicycles in the course of their ministry, which is what they call their work. In 1998, a young boy in their Midway neighborhood saw Mike and Benita were always tinkering with bikes. He dragged one over to their garage and asked, “Can you fix this?” The bike wasn’t much, but that young neighbor, who is grown now and a vital part of the shop team, figured it’d get him around. It did that and more. The broken bike started a 17 year friendship between the three biking enthusiasts, and launched a business idea.

“Our main focus is on giving away bikes,” Benita said. “Among our diverse recipients are low income kids, college students, new immigrants, neighbors, residents of half-way houses, and homeless people. Our bikes are available to anyone – we don’t have an intake process or ask any questions.”

The shop operates on a break-even basis and succeeds because the raw materials are free, and volunteers donate many hours of repair time and skill.

There is a small selection of repaired/refurbished bikes for sale, as well as an assortment of new and used bike parts.

Customers can bring their own bikes in for repair at the rate of $15/hour. Ninety percent of the income earned goes right back into upkeep and operation of the store. The remaining 10% is given away to charity. The volunteers designate a different charity each quarter; recipients from 2014 included the ALS Foundation, Feline Rescue, Anne Bancroft Foundation and Sisters Camelot.

Mister Michael Recycles 12Michael and Benita make the rounds of various community recycling centers and pick up bikes that are considered junk. “Those that are beyond repair, we tear apart,” Michael said,  “but we salvage as many parts as possible and use them to repair other bikes. We’ve been able to keep a whole lot of metal from going into local landfills.”

They’ve been at their current location for seven years. “We operated out of our garage at first,” Benita said. “Over the course of ten years, we had to keep renting more garages and it didn’t make sense to have bikes stored in so many different places. We needed a more formal arrangement. When we heard that 520 Prior Ave. was for rent with a retail front and six garages out back, we figured it was just about perfect.”

The store is open for business on Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9pm and Sunday from 12-4pm. Those are also times when volunteers are invited in to help repair bikes for give-away. Bring your bike repair skills, whatever they might be, and learn to answer the question yourself, “Can you fix this?”