On a Tuesday afternoon in late April, Greg Andrada is in demand.
Customers are flowing into the bike and skateboard shop that he owns with his wife, Joy. A father arrives cradling a toddler in one arm and a damaged bike tire in the other. One customer wants to know how to coat the inside of a bike tire with a particular type of valve; another is looking for a more comfortable bike seat. A mom chooses a skateboard for her son’s 11th birthday.
The conversations flow with each transaction. “It’s a small town. You get to know people, you really make relationships,” Greg says.
Greg and Joy began building those relationships when they opened Wheels in Motion in October 1991. They credit each other for the First Street shop’s success.
“He likes to talk and I’m the opposite,” Joy says.
“This place wouldn’t operate without her. We definitely have our traits that make it work,” Greg adds.
Greg and Joy moved to Benicia in the late 1980s and have three children ages 7 through 24. Greg was working in customer service for USAir when they opened the shop. He continued at the airline for the first three years of Wheels in Motion.
The business began as a rollerblade shop and now carries skateboards, bicycles and related gear. Greg, 51, also repairs and fits bikes at the shop. Their oldest child, Chase, specializes in skateboards and Joy does the books.
The shop name remains the same even though inventory has changed over the years. “Everything we did ended up having wheels, so it works,” Greg says.
Did they choose the name Wheels in Motion with a long-term business plan in mind?
Greg doubles over in laughter at the question. “Did we ever plan anything?” he asks Joy. “It just goes. We listen to what people need and that’s worked this long.”
How did you go from working for an airline to owning your own business? I had a friend who was a co-worker (at the airline) and he had a surf shop in Pacifica. I asked him, “How do you do all this?” and he said, “It’s easy.” We could do shift changes easily, so we could make it all work.
Rollerblades were the hot thing back then and we liked to rollerblade, so we started with that. Then we noticed that skateboards were popular here, so we started selling skateboards.
When did you add bicycles to the mix? We were always doing repairs for the kids. This is a small town, and it got out by word of mouth, kids telling their friends that “He’ll do it for you.” Then we started selling used bikes. Finally we picked up the Specialized line in the early 2000s.
Have you always repaired bikes? When I was growing up in Oakland, my house was the repair station. I fixed flats and did little repairs with my dad’s tools. He’d get mad at me for using his tools and leaving them out.
Did you always do distance cycling? Heck no—no way. That’s just in the last few years. No, I rode just for recreation before that. I always had a mountain bike. As a kid, I had a BMX. Then I started doing longer distances, increased the miles and got a better bike (grinning widely as he thinks of the bike he got this spring).
Now I’m training for the Death Ride in July. The official name is the Tour of the California Alps. So I’m adding more miles to my rides. If I’m not riding, I’m running. A lot of people have done it. About 90 percent of them say it’s difficult, about 5 percent say it’s fun and another 5 percent say I’m crazy to be doing this.
What do you get out of bicycling? I think I get a lot. It’s not just physical, it’s a stress reliever. You feel the wind in your face and you go, “Aahhhhh.” It’s a good feeling.
What’s been your biggest bike adventure over the years? There’ve been so many that I can’t remember. One night we had a ride with nine flats. Caltrans had just weed-whacked the bridge and all the stuff blew onto the side and we had nine flats. We ended up finishing the ride, but it took longer than it normally does.
What gear do you carry when you’re taking a ride? I don’t try to really carry too much if I’m not going over 60 miles. I have an emergency kit, a bottle of water and snacks. The repair kit has an inner tube, a CO2 inflator and a multi-tool.
What advice would you give a recreational cyclist who wants to become a distance cyclist? Start slow. Don’t try to over-exert yourself. Slowly build to longer distances. Make sure you have the proper equipment for flats and other emergencies. Get your bike properly fitted.
What does a bicycle fitting entail? I do a whole bike fit here. It takes about an hour. We start at the foot, where the pedal meets the foot. We adjust the seat height and make forward and aft adjustments, adjust the tilt, adjust the handlebars. I use levels and lasers to make sure it fits like it should, and I put them on a trainer and watch them ride to make sure everything is right.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? I always wanted to be self-employed. I didn’t like working for other people. I’m not lazy, I like to work. But there are some things, things like red tape, that come with other jobs. I have my own ideas about how I want to do things. I always wanted the businesses I was working for to succeed and I felt we were wasting a lot when I worked for others.
What do you do to relax? We do family stuff. We go boating. You have to recreate yourself somehow. Sundays are our fun days. The store is closed. We start off with church. You know, God is good to us. We are very thankful.
After church, we do our family stuff, visit Joy’s mom in Alameda. It’s a busy day.
What’s been the biggest surprise about owning the shop? How time flies. Especially when you’re having fun. It’s been almost 25 years and it went just like that (snaps his fingers).
It’s been a fun ride.