Chain Reaction | How used bikes are helping people out of poverty

Written by Tim Johnson on . Posted in Entrepreneurs, Outdoor Rec and Nature

Photos by Bear Cieri

Two uncommon bike shops flourish in Burlington’s Old North End, less than a block apart. They’re both well-entrenched, but they’ve never been competitors, and their business models are quite different.

Bike Recycle Vermont operates out of a basement, relies on volunteers, sells everything at discount and serves a clientele that can’t always afford to pay. A cashless customer who shows up looking to get a flat tire fixed will likely be put to work on the repair.

Old Spokes Home, which occupies its own freestanding two-story building around the corner and across North Winooski Avenue, is more like a typical retail enterprise, with paid staff, market-rate merchandise and a conventional customer base: people with money.

BEACON OF HOPE | Bike Recycle Vermont, in Burlington's Old North End, works with people in need of basic transportation, often as a lifeline. Photo by Bear Cieri.

BEACON OF HOPE | Bike Recycle Vermont, in Burlington’s Old North End, works with people in need of basic transportation, often as a lifeline. Photo by Bear Cieri.

For years, the two shops maintained an amiable coexistence and had little to do with each other, but then something counterintuitive happened. The basement operation, a volunteer-driven nonprofit that started on a shoestring and came to depend almost entirely on grants and donations, took over its commercial counterpart across the street.

This was not a trivial acquisition. The purchase price was about half a million dollars. The result of this unlikely business deal, proudly announced in January 2015, was a new, combined enterprise, a nonprofit called Burlington Bike Project.

The new entity remains a work in progress, but its creation is a testament to the melting-pot neighborhood that gave rise to it and to its crew of visionary bike enthusiasts — including the shops’ two founders.

Glenn Eames set up Old Spokes in 2000, having left his job as service manager at a downtown bike shop with his eye on a niche market, secondhand bikes. What set Old Spokes apart was its sales focus on the used and the reconditioned. Eames’ venture soon attracted a loyal cadre of customers who relied on bikes as a practical alternative to cars.

“Old Spokes Home is not about sport,” Eames said recently. “It’s about transport.”

The business prospered, but in 2005, Eames learned something that gave him pause: another used-bike outlet would be starting up across the street.

That shop, called Bike Recycle Vermont, was a brainchild of Ron Manganiello. The recycling idea had come to him the year before when he heard from a friend that a Somali refugee in Burlington needed a bike. Manganiello found a castoff Raleigh three-speed that worked fine, so he passed it on. Then he realized that “a gazillion other refugees” resettled in Burlington also could use bikes to get around, so he soon was collecting unclaimed bikes from the police department, hauling them to a mechanic friend to be rehabbed and giving them away.

Before long,

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Q&A: Mountaineer Andrea Charest

Written by Sky Barsch on . Posted in Entrepreneurs, Outdoor Rec and Nature

Andrea Charest, 33, is co-owner of Petra Cliffs Climbing Center and Mountaineering School in Burlington. A Mammut-sponsored athlete, she is seeking to become certified at the highest level as a Rock Guide by the American Mountain Guides Association. She teaches mountaineering and climbing in Vermont and beyond.

We profiled her in Winter 2015-16’s Q&A. The following is the extended interview.

VL: How’d you get introduced to climbing?
AC: I didn’t know climbing was a sport until I was 18, but I had always been a climber. I climbed trees, rocks, I dabbled with climbing things that I wouldn’t climb now without a rope. I had some friends that found an indoor climbing gym in Pittsburgh — where I’m from — my senior year in high school. So that was the first time I tried indoor climbing. I had decided at that point in high school that I was coming to UVM for school, so I started looking into work study opportunities and found one working at the climbing wall at UVM. I started working there and through the outdoor community and the Outing Club, I linked up with people who were climbing outside, and started doing more outdoor climbing.

VL: What attracted you to UVM?
AC: Partly location. Mostly location. … I had been looking all over New England at schools and looked at Burlington, looked at UVM, applied early decision, got in, didn’t apply anywhere else. I totally fell in love with Burlington, mostly the ski opportunities.

Andrea Charest in the Smugglers Notch area. Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.

Andrea Charest in the Smugglers Notch area. Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.

VL: What was your major?
AC: I originally went in with a chemistry major, but then switched to psychology.

VL: That must come in handy with your profession.
AC: Oh yeah. Your mind limits you a lot more in climbing than your body does. So breaking through some of those barriers can be challenging but it feels really good when you do.

VL: Do you have a preference for rock or ice?
AC: If I had to do only one for the rest of my life? I would rock climb.

VL: What do you love about it?
AC: So many different things. The challenge for sure. It’s a problem, kind of a puzzle that you have to work out. It feels good physically while you’re climbing, but it’s very mental too. You get to try to work something out, look at it, think about it, make a plan, readjust if it’s not working. Sometimes you fail, but most of the time you get to try again. I really like the places it can take you to. It’s a little bit different

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The Beating Heart

Written by Leslie Wright on . Posted in Outdoor Rec and Nature

A father creates a legacy for a son lost on the mountains

On Feb. 27, 2011, Ryan Hawks, a world-class extreme skier from Vermont, was competing at Kirkwood, a resort near Lake Tahoe, California. He launched a backflip off a cliff, and when he landed, struck a sharp outcropping of rock hidden beneath the snow. The trauma of the impact was severe, and after being airlifted off the mountain to a hospital in Reno, Nevada, he died two days later. He was 25.

Ryan Hawks, 1985-2011. Photo by Frank Shine.

RYAN HAWKS’ CORE PRINCIPLES
❅ Live every day, all day
❅ Never stop exploring life
❅ Never lose my adventuresome attitude
❅ Be the best friend I can be
❅ Be the best brother, son, uncle I can
❅ Look out for others
❅ Look out for myself
❅ Look out for our surroundings
❅ Play like I’m 13
❅ Be self-sufficient
❅ Don’t be afraid to ask for help
❅ Work hard
❅ Live easy
❅ Live simply

Photo by Frank Shine.

In the weeks after the tragedy, as the solemn task got underway of weighing what to preserve among the deceased’s possessions, a family friend discovered, on Hawks’ computer, a list of “Ryan’s Core Principles for Living.”

The note was a kind of self-help guide, “a note from Ryan to Ryan” as the family later described it, but it had a remarkable, Zen-like character, contained in simple expressions — “Never stop exploring life,” “Look out for others,” and a dozen other phrases (see caption) profound in their clarity and wisdom. 

Peter Hawks, Ryan’s then 72-year-old father, had been preparing a way to honor his son through a memorial fund, but he was struck by the power of the core principles, and felt they could be the tenets of something significant. He was also electrified, as he recounts it, by the notion that his son’s life was not where he thought it was. It was actually “a current event.”

Three months after the skiing accident, Peter Hawks created The Flyin’ Ryan Hawks Foundation, a nonprofit organization, hoping to share Ryan’s principles as a way to inspire others. Hawks admits that his wife and Ryan’s mother, Jackie, and their daughter, Alicia, were not on board with the foundation in the beginning, fearing that Ryan’s memory would become commercialized. Nevertheless, Peter moved ahead. His first steps were small, on a shoestring, with no road map. Cards were printed containing the core principles. Some decals were created. Bits and pieces trickled out into Vermont’s skiing community, which is where the idea might have stayed except for the breakthrough that came at South Burlington High School.

Ryan Hawks had attended the school, serving on the student council, playing on the lacrosse team and graduating in 2004 (he went on to earn a degree from the University of Vermont). John Painter, a teacher at the school, also knew Peter Hawks through mountain bike racing. When Painter saw the “core principles” and Peter’s vision behind it, the opportunity presented itself to cross the idea over from mountain culture into the education system — a new way to reach large numbers of young

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