SANTA ROSA, Calif. (BRAIN) — During the weeks leading up to Christmas, the staff at Performance Bicycle in Santa Rosa, California, logged some long hours building kids’ bikes. But this wasn’t to keep up with the usual holiday rush. It was to fulfill an order placed by celebrity chefs Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray, who donated 310 bikes to families impacted by the wildfires that raged in Northern California in October. The Tubbs Fire, which became the deadliest fire in California’s history, destroyed nearly 3,000 structures in Santa Rosa.
Fieri, a restaurateur well known for his shows on The Food Network, is a resident of Santa Rosa. And he’s also a cyclist who regularly donates bikes to kids in need.
“Guy is one of our local guys. Everyone has a story of bumping into him,” said Tommy Merriott, general manager of Performance Bicycle in Santa Rosa. “He’s done these kinds of donations in the past, but usually through a big-box store like Target. This is the first time he has teamed up with a bike retailer.
Merriott and four Performance staff members built 130 SE Racing and Fuji bikes and brought in additional help to assemble the remainder. Performance hosted a build night, which Fieri and his family, local firefighters and other volunteers attended to help finish the bikes in time for the holidays. The bikes were double-deck stacked to fill four PODS storage containers and delivered to four local fire departments.
“It was such a huge project, and so rewarding. We had weeks and weeks of 12-hour days and lots of pizza parties at the bike shop,” said Merriott. “We had everything from 13-inch to 19-inch adult sizes and down to 20-inch and 16-inch kids’ bikes. We wanted to make sure we could get this done for the community.”
Following the fires that scorched nearly 260,000 acres in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino Counties in October, the communities affected have started to rebuild. Numerous fundraisers have been held, including several bike industry-supported efforts to help residents replace bikes and cycling gear. Merriott said that in the months following the fires, his store has been busy as some customers have had to replace everything.
“That has helped eliminate some of the stress. But it is an awful situation. Some parts of town are business as usual and others you feel like you’re in a war zone. Everyone knows someone who was affected. Sonoma County is a real tight knit community,” Merriott said. “Everyone banded together and did everything they could. But one thing that has come out of it is that everything was reprioritized — in a good way. It helps you think about what you value in life.”
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Author: Val Vanderpool
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