By Sue Botos
As a Rocky River firefighter, Dean Brondos was trained to save lives. But when he and his son Paul bought Fairview Cycle in 2000, they saved a Fairview Park institution.
“It was kind of surreal. People were sending us cards and letters asking us when the last day of business was,” recalled Dean Brondos in an interview shortly before Christmas. He explained that the shop, which has been a fixture in the city since 1950 (only the Fairview Lanes bowling alley is older), had almost gone out of business in 1999. The following year, when Brondos retired from the Rocky River Fire Department where he served as a mechanic, he and his son took over – although Dean admits, “If it hadn’t been for Paul, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
The small shop, at 22230 Lorain Road, is packed with bicycles for every age and ability and has managed to hold its own, despite competition from “big box” department and sporting goods stores.
“About 10 years ago or so, almost 80 percent of bikes were purchased through department stores,” Dean noted, adding that, without guidance, people were “turned off” by bikes ill-suited for them and gave up cycling.
“We see ourselves as guides,” said Paul Brondos, who added that the staff spends time with customers to fit them with the proper bike and to explain the various styles.
It’s this variety of bicycle styles that Paul sees as a big change in the cycling industry. Models displayed in the store range from old-style cruisers to sophisticated racers. Paul said that the most popular bike is a hybrid style, which he said combines “the quality of a road bike with the versatility of a mountain bike.”
“We have found that people are so pleasantly surprised at how comfortable bikes are now,” Paul said. He added that while members of “Generation X” (people between their late 20s and mid-40s) are the biggest consumers of two-wheeled transport, older people are coming back to bikes, often after retirement or after their children have grown.
Dean Brondos noted that area residents are fortunate to have bike-friendly areas for riding. “We’re richly blessed with the Metroparks,” he said, adding that bike trails have improved greatly over the years. “You used to take your life in your hands riding down there.”
The younger Brondos added that while they often hear from customers about the ongoing road rant between cyclists and motorists, there really is no solution other than cyclists obeying road rules, which, for the most part, are the same as those for drivers.
“We focus on educating our customers,” he stated.
This attention to safety includes custom-fitting of helmets for both adults and children. Paul added that while many parents are reluctant to spend a lot of money on bikes their children will soon outgrow, a quality cycle is a good investment as well as a safe choice. “Over the age of 6, a child can get about four years out of a bike,” he stated.
Both Brondoses also note that aside from the wide variety of bikes offered, their store is the largest area dealer of electric bicycles, which offer a rider a variety of assistance levels, from totally motorized to traditional pedal power.
“These bikes are misunderstood,” said Paul, who added that while many people think the electric motor lets riders “cheat,” it actually gives people the chance to bike who otherwise may not be able to. His father told the story of a customer who used an electric bike while recovering from surgery, and was eventually able to go back to a traditional bike. He added that the electric bikes are also a plus for those who want to commute by bike, but feel pedaling the entire way to work too much of a challenge.
Both Brondoses hope their shop will be around for another 60 years. “The community has been so supportive,” said Paul.