RecycleBicycle Shop #3! RBH expands 2009 – 2014
A careful search of the Harrisburg area revealed a large vacant building on Elder Street. This 15,000 square foot brick warehouse (formerly a sausage factory with cold storage built in the late 1800s), was certainly big enough to house RBH’s large inventory of used and donated bicycles and parts. Leased to RBH by corporate owner G.R. Sponaugle for the generous sum of $1.00 per year, a semi-permanent home came into being.
This building had extensive storage, two loading docks, cork-lined (formerly refrigerated) rooms and plenty of space – and became fondly known as “The Warehouse.” Unfortunately, “The Warehouse” had no electricity, running water, bathrooms, or HVAC. Volunteers installed basic electricity with lighting and a few outlets at their own expense. Scores of part-time and full-time volunteers rehabilitated the spaces. They created places for multiple bike repair stations with tools and bike repair stands; a dedicated space for “two hour” bikes (which could be fixed for use); a tire and wheel room; a “good bikes” room; a specially built parts room; spaces for metal and rubber recycling, plus a “warm room” with lighting and temporary heating for winter projects.
RBH flourished and grew at this location. During the summers there would be long lines of people who needed bike repairs or were looking to get a bike. Volunteers and friends arrived with van and box-truck loads of abandoned bicycles for donation. No matter how busy it got Ross and his core volunteers never wavered from the initial reason to embark on this mission. Before any bicycle went out of the shop both front and rear brakes had to be in good operating condition. People would sometimes argue, but in the end, safety always came first. After the brake checks, other repairs could be made.
In 2009 our founder attended a BikeBike conference in Pittsburgh. BikeBike is an international group of non-profit bike shops. Many non-profit bike shops saw the same problem that RBH had: theft. Many of the bikes provided to the community were stolen once they left our shop. The same owners kept coming back wanting another bike. RBH’s “Bicycle Lock Program” rapidly came into being. Cable locks were purchased at cost from a local bike shop and turned around at cost to anyone who wanted got a new bike did not have a locking system. No adult bike lever eaves RBH now unless it has a lock.
The Harrisburg City Police also knew that there was a bicycle theft problem in the city. They decided to start a program to register bicycles and put a registration decal on each bike that they registered. However, the program soon lost momentum due to budget and man power shortages. Ross and RBH came to the rescue and became the official bicycle registration station for the city of Harrisburg. Harrisburg and many other local municipal police departments now donate all the unclaimed stolen bikes they collect to RBH for rebuilding and return to the community. In addition the registration program is starting to bear fruit as several stolen bikes have been returned to the owner through the registration information on file.
During these years RBH expanded its partnerships in new and unexpected ways. In 2011 RBH helped develop the newly created the Handlebar, a nonprofit student-run bike shop at Dickinson College. To date, RBH has supplied the Handlebar and the spinoff Dickinson Cycling Club with over 300 bicycles for students and box upon box of used and new parts. In 2011 RBH partnered with yet another non-profit student-operated bicycle shop at nearby Messiah College. In 2014 the Common Wheel, non-profit bike repair shop was created with RBH’s assistance in Lancaster PA.