Bike repair a passion for Selma manPublished 8:11pm Thursday, July 18, 2013
Since age eight, Joe Chapman Jr. has been repairing bicycles. Joe’s Bike’s Shop, a business that began with Chapman’s uncle, has become somewhat of a landmark on J.L. Chestnut Avenue, across from Calhoun’s Foods. With its faded red lettering reading “Joe’s Bicycle Repair,” it’s hard to miss the small shop — and Chapman, who sits outside and waves to cars as they pass by.
Now 72, Chapman said fixing bikes has become more than just a trade, but a way of life.
“I do it for a living, and I do it for a hobby,” Chapman said while sitting outside his small store, unphased by the fierce summer heat. “This building, it’s been a family-owned operation for many years. My uncle owned it and he taught me this trade.”
Graduating from R.B. Hudson High School in 1959, Chapman formed a deep interest in bicycle repair and auto mechanics. Traveling as far as New York City, Chapman said he’s “seen it all” when it comes to bicycle repair.
“Once you got a talent, a trade, a skill and you know what you’re doing — can’t nobody touch you,” he said. “If I repair something, I look through it thoroughly and make sure it’s safe — and you can bet your bottom dollar it’s going to be a good job.”
On average, Chapman said he repairs up to 12 bikes a day. Meeting and talking with people, he said, is his favorite part about the job.
“I meet a lot of people, a lot of good people doing this,” Chapman said with a smile. “I don’t meet any strangers.”
And although he’s been in the bike repair business for several decades, Chapman has been employed elsewhere. From 1971 to 1985, Chapman was known around Selma for his taxi business, “Joe’s Taxis.”
As one of the only taxi drivers in the area, Chapman said he got to know many people and hear a lot of stories.
“I used to haul the Southern Railway fellas, taking them to Montgomery and Birmingham,” Chapman recalled fondly. “Anywhere a train was running and they needed a taxi, Joe’s Taxi was right there.”
Still, Chapman said he would repair bicycles on the side. Returning to Joe’s Bike Shop later in his life “just made sense,” he said — especially after his wife, Brenda, passed away in 2003.
“With my children looking out for me, I’m doing pretty good,” Chapman said, and added that he’s had people travel as far as Uniontown, Maplesville and Demopolis to have their bicycle repaired at Joe’s Bike Shop. “At my age now, all I want to do is the right thing and please my customer.”
Making sure his customers receive the best quality service is paramount, Chapman said, especially when running a small business.
“I’ve gathered in business that the customer is always right, even when they’re wrong as two left shoes,” he said laughing. “But that’s just the way it goes, I guess.”
As for what lies ahead, Chapman said he plans to stay at Joe’s Bike’s Shop, spending his days repairing bicycles and waving to those who drive by.
“Sometimes people will say, ‘Joe, why don’t you just give up this trade?’ I just tell them I’ve been doing it too long,” Chapman said. “I take pride in what I do. I’m not quite ready to close up shop right now, so I’ll be out here.”