From used bikes to high end machines

In 1976, Doug Boaz and Jack Wright were sitting in a roadhouse bar on Old Redwood Highway, having a beer and wondering what to do next in their lives.

“We wanted to start a business together, but we didn’t know what,” Boaz recalled last week, “So we asked the bartender what kind of business Healdsburg needed.”

The bartender told Wright and Boaz: “I have a bicycle and nowhere to get it fixed.”

A few months later, Spoke Folk Cyclery was born. Boaz and Wright drove to San Francisco and met with the Mitchell family, who owned (and still own) the shopping center between Center Street and Healdsburg Avenue.

“Mr. Mitchell was really good to us,” Boaz said. They agreed on a month-to-month rent and opened their shop next door to Lamplighter Pizza on Mitchell Lane.

Cash was tight. “We didn’t have enough money to buy bicycles when we first opened, we went to the dumps and found old bicycles and parts, fixed them up, sold them and guaranteed them.”

The guys had no cash register. “We kept our money in a cigar box,” Boaz said. “I had a 1950 Chevy with a camper shell. I parked it in front of the store and slept in it at night and worked during the day. We built our displays out of wooden pallets we got for free.”

Boaz and Wright bought a copy of “Bicycle Repair for Dummies” and used it every day as they kept families’ bikes running and gradually built their business.

The first distributor to take a chance on them was a sales rep for the Azuki bicycle company, based in Japan.

With new imported bikes for sale, the business began to grow. Wright and Boaz parted amicably in 1979. Boaz moved to a cabin on Mount Diablo, bought a convertible sports car and sold BMX parts, before eventually settling back in Healdsburg.

Wright held onto Spoke Folk and moved it to a narrow two-story building on Center Street, next door to the El Sombrero taqueria. “We had a little parking lot right on the corner by the Plaza,” Wright said. (That space is now occupied by the Bacchi Building.)

Mountain bikes were taking the bicycle market by storm in the early 1980s and Wright saw the beginning of the transition from classic steel bicycles to aluminum and alloy frames and components.

“It was a very family business when we were on the Plaza,” Wright said. “People who wanted to spend a lot of money on a bike went to Santa Rosa.”

In 1984, Wright sold the shop to Mike Smith, who had his bike repair stand in the middle of the crowded first floor of the shop, and extra bicycles and accessories at the top of a steep staircase.

In 1993, an avid bicyclist and one-time racer, Tony Pastene, bought Spoke Folk. He grew the shop too, gradually bringing in a more competitive and diverse selection, and moved down the street, to the shop’s current location at the south end of Center Street, in 2000.

In 2007, Pastene decided he wanted to be more hands-on as a father and sold Spoke Folk to Richard and Liz Peacock, who rode the wave of bicycling’s exploding popularity. Richard Peacock said the shop always did well when they owned it, even during the extended roundabout construction project a block away, that blocked access to his shop at times.

Pastene said when he sold the shop to the Peacocks, he included a buy-back clause giving him the first option if the Peacocks ever decided to sell, but he didn’t wait.

“Tony came to me said he wanted to buy back the shop,” Richard Peacock said in September. “I had been thinking about it a little bit, but at first I said no. After I talked with Liz, we went back to him.”

Pastene resumed ownership in early October and said he has no major changes planned. “We want to keep things rolling along the way they are,” he said. “All the staff is still here. These guys know what they’re doing; Richard and I brought in a very good staff.”

When Pastene bought Spoke Folk back from the Peacocks, he also purchased a second location in Cloverdale, which opened earlier this year. That shop is shuttered, as Pastene prefers to focus on Healdsburg.

For the future, Pastene wants to incorporate his other business into Spoke Folk. He rents and sells high-end carbon fiber bicycle wheel sets to racers and triathletes around the world. He also plans to start carrying electric bicycles, a fast-growing segment of the two-wheeled market.

Richard and Liz Peacock are going to take a break. He worked as an engineer when they first bought the shop and retired recently. “Liz and I have always wanted to go to Europe and ride, so now we can do that.”

Pastene said he wants Spoke Folk to remain family and community focused. “I really like being the bike guy for this town,” he said.

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