Camas Bike and Sport just celebrated its ninth year of doing business in downtown Camas.
To mark the milestone, members of the local biking community met outside the shop, located at 403 N.E. Fifth Ave., for a special evening ride on Friday, June 22.
Several dozen people took part in the anniversary event, riding on both road and mountain bikes.
Jaron Barney, a former Washougal School Board director, said he bought his first mountain bike from the shop a year and a half ago and was excited to take part in the June 22 celebratory ride.
“I just think Camas Bike and Sport is the perfect example of a local bike shop because it’s so involved in the Camas-Washougal community and welcomes riders of all abilities,” Barney said.
Owners Ed and Katina Fischer launched Camas Bike and Sport in 2009, in a Third Avenue space that is now Vega Gym.
The Fischers said that, had it not been for the Great Recession of 2008, their downtown Camas bike shop may never have become a reality.
Graveyard shifts and a lack of career advancement opportunities convinced a then 41-year-old Ed to walk away from his job at the Portland Water Bureau. With the recession in full swing, hiring freezes had started to flood his industry, so he was thinking about a career change.
“I always wanted to do a bike shop, so I got some training from a friend that runs a bike shop in southern California, then came home to Camas and put a business plan together,” Ed said.
Camas Bike and Sport grew at the Third Avenue location for five years before the Fischers purchased the old Lacamas Credit Union building and moved their business into its much larger current location in 2015.
“I wanted our shop to be inclusive — not just for certain types of riders, but for anyone. From folks with little kids pushing strollers who just need a flat repair to the racer types and everything in between,” Ed said.
Katina manages the books and also continues to work full-time for Clark Public Utilities. She said the Camas-Washougal community is a special place to be a business owner.
“The friends we have made while working at this shop are friends we will have for the rest of our lives,” Katina said.
‘Perfect way to make friends’
Jan Verrinder, 66, took part in the anniversary ride on her road bike. She started riding bicycles right after Mount St. Helens blew in 1980, after moving to Clark County from Texas.
“I needed friends and discovered I really like riding bikes, which turned out to be the perfect way to make friends,” Verrinder said, adding that she likes how the Fischers promote cycling in the community, especially with young people.
Over the past nine years, Camas Bike and Sport has launched the area’s first local mountain biking teams, led groups to help repair area biking trails, hosted free community rides and helped the city of Washougal build the first phase of a bike park at Hamllik Park on Addy Street.
“My God, what this shop has contributed to the community and what it’s done for our kids,” Verrinder said. “I’m a retired teacher, and anytime someone does something for children I’m happy about that.”
As the mountain and road bikers united for the evening anniversary ride, the line of bikes started rolling through downtown Camas toward Captain William Clark Regional Park in Washougal. As the riders’ tires crunched the gravel along the Columbia River Dike Trail, they were joined by a father and son who had been riding together until they spotted Ed and his crew of anniversary cyclists.
“I bought bikes for myself and my son, Andrew, from Camas Bike and Sport and we just love the service there and riding together,” Matt Wessel, who has lived in Camas since 2000, said.
Verringer said she is deeply touched by the fact that the Fischers have helped so many families ride bicycles together.
“Golly, wouldn’t you have just killed to ride bikes with your parents?,” Verringer said, recalling the one time she actually went for a ride with her mom and dad. “I was only 10 years old, but it is forever etched in my mind.”
Right before the ride, Barney purchased his second mountain bike from Camas Bike and Sport.
He says one of his friends told him he could have saved a little money if he had bought his high-end mountain bike online, but that he felt buying from a local bike shop was the only way to go.
“You get their expertise, you get their service, their tune-ups. I mean, I can bring in my bike any time, and they always keep it in tip-top shape,” Barney said.
Looking forward, Ed said he’s excited about the growth of biking in Camas and Washougal.
“We’ve made so many friends in these small towns,” Ed said. “You know, I never thought I’d be walking down the street and every fifth person would know (my) name. But, after nine years here, that’s exactly what it’s like.”