Bicycle mechanic Tim Koinzan inspects a bicycle at Northwest Hub on Wednesday, July 14. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
When Kirk Seyfert operated a volunteer bike repair shop in a church basement, he remembers a man coming in to get his bike fixed.
The man had a job but couldn’t afford the $200 repair and ten-day lag time another bike shop in Salem had quoted him. He needed to get to work the next day and asked Seyfert if he could help.
With donated supplied and volunteer labor, the man was on his way with a repaired bike that day.
It’s been years since that repair and The Northwest Hub has expanded quite a bit since.
In addition to offering bicycles and bicycle repairs to those who are “no income, low income and any income,” the nonprofit also offers job training and paid positions at the shop.
Seyfert sees it the shop’s expansions as a way to solve the problems he was seeing in Salem.
“We wanted to ensure there weren’t any barriers to bicycle transportation,” he said, explaining the nonprofit’s “bicycles for all” slogan.
At first, people would get referred to him through the De Muniz resource center, which helps people leaving prison find housing, jobs, transportation and other services.
“And it just kind of blew up. I knew of a few instances where it would be helpful,” Seyfert said.
It expanded to serve people experiencing homelessness, those in transitional living, and refugees, he said.
Historically the shop has given away about 350 bikes each year, with the recipients helping with the reclamation process. The nonprofit takes donations of used bikes and also diverts bicycles away from the landfill.
But with Covid, Seyfert said that number dropped off to 200 because they had to suspend the volunteer program.
He said the nonprofit also shifted some of its focus from April to October in 2020, working with the Safe Routes to Schools program doing free bike repairs at different district schools.
They also offered free monthly bike repairs at The ARCHES Project.
Jesus Gutierrez, community outreach and development manager at Northwest Hub, replaces an inner tube on a bicycle tire for a customer on Wednesday, July 14. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Seyfert said the nonprofit has been focused on doing holistic job training and personal development in recent years.
They work with people who have more than just transportation barriers.
“Oftentimes people would come to us for a bicycle and volunteer and hang around because they found a meaningful place to do something productive,” he said. “But months later they’re still unemployed and they can’t find work or housing. Maybe giving them a bike to get around is well and good, but they need more than that.”
Three years ago, the nonprofit started a young adult development program called Frame Up which gives participants technical and life skills training through a 10-month program. The program also has a counseling component, Seyfert said.
He said youth are primarily from the Oregon Youth Authority and a Northwest Human Services’ program for houseless youth.
The goal of Frame Up is to transition young adults into other jobs at the end of the program.
On July 12, the Frame Up members rode their bicycles to Champoeg State Park and camped for the night.
The Northwest Hub current has 13 employees, about half of whom will move onto other gigs, Seyfert said.
Seyfert said there’s a synchronicity to everything The Northwest Hub does, from the shop, to the repairs to reclamation to training.
“We continue to try to improve, meet the demand, continue to scale,” he said.
Despite its growth from 2014 to now, the bike shop continues to serve the people it set out to from the start.
Seyfert said over the weekend a young man recently released from prison came into the 1230 Broadway St. N.E. shop.
He said he had gotten a job, but had to be on the clock by 4:30 a.m. and buses don’t run then.
He needed an alternative way to get to work, so The Northwest Hub hooked him up.
A mural decorates the wall behind rows of bicycles for sale at Northwest Hub on Wednesday, July 14. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]
JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM - We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter starting at $5 a month. Click I want to subscribe!