Repairing and Repainting. How ReCycles Bike Shop Sticks to Its Community Roots

Repairing and Repainting. How ReCycles Bike Shop Sticks to Its Community Roots

December 20, 2021

When Merritt White started Recycles in Greensboro, North Carolina, he focused on simple bikes and the straight forward repairs that locals needed to keep riding. It worked. And a few years later, when ReCycles started selling Rocky Mountain, room was limited to store that fresh, minty fleet.

 

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“I barely had room,” says Merritt. “But I thought ‘Let’s just dive in and do it.”

Decades later, other brands have come and gone, but Rocky Mountain remains the one consistent presence. Even when Merritt was considering closing ReCycles’ retail, it was, oddly enough, it was the Powerplay that changed his mind.

“I love the Powerplay,” he explains. It wasn’t the first eMTB he’d tried. Earlier experiments, and the delayed power support of other brands, had left him sour on the idea.

“I took out a really hooked up bike from another brand and, man, the motor took a second to kick in and a second to kick off. I rode the front wheel down this big rock face and just turned around and went home. And listen, I know how to handle a bike! But that thing almost drove me, Merritt recalls telling that brand rep at the time. “This is crazy, I said—this is why people hate e-bikes right here.”

Then, that February, Merritt joined the Powerplay launch in Arizona.

“I rode that bike man, and it just turned everything around. I rode with Wade and Jesse and had a ball. I put a big order in and the rest is history.”

Since then, ReCycles has been selling Powerplays faster than Merritt can order them.

While eMTBs might dominate conversations and sales numbers in Merritt’s shop right now in 2021, ReCycles’ origins are far more modest and community driven.

Merritt started ReCycles with the idea of providing a straightforward repair shop in close proximity to Greensboro’s college campus. Soon enough, the shop grew—both physically and in popularity. They expanded into the building’s basement, then the next door shop.

Around that time, Merritt brought on a local friend and painter who he affectionately calls Art Boy. A talented painter of motorcycles, Art Boy came onboard after a bust in sales during the recession. And just like that, Art Boys next-level paint skills immediately provided ReCycles with a reputation for customized frame and paint work. Combined with Merritt’s imagination, wild custom builds could now include unique custom paint and even helmets to match.

 

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“I guess we were doing something cool,” says Merritt, who had repeat customers from as far as Oregon, “But we just kind of let it grow naturally.” When Art Boy’s motorcycle business picked back up he went back to that industry, but continues to add custom finishes to the shop’s top-end builds.

But aside from wild, next-level builds, ReCycles’ main business is still building affordable, simple bikes for college students and Greensboro’s locals of all stripes.

Merritt remembers seeing other, bigger shops turning away low-income locals, and thinking “man, that guy needs his bike for his hustle, to make his $10 a day, he needs this bike way more than the doctor over here that’s going to be uptight because it’s not done on time.” In Merritt’s words, that very observation and reality was one of the core reasons he opened up shop back in the early 2000s.

It’s always exciting to hear about high-end builds, custom paint jobs, and riders going all-out in designing a truly rad bike. But what’s compelling when chatting with Merritt is how he’s so deftly balanced two very core pillars of the bike shop experience to deliver something community-driven, motivating, and, well, fun.

As the best and most welcoming shops often do, Merritt’s created a space that values the simple beauty of transportation and movement on two wheels, while also providing a space for exciting and wild custom builds. For Merritt, it all comes back to bikes.

“At the end of the day, we all bleed red,” says Merritt. “We’re not all dealt the same cards, but it’s all about having fun on the bike and utilizing it to help yourself.