This spring Peter Kern, owner of The Bicycle Hangar, taught his 4-year-old son Hank how to ride without training wheels in the parking lot of the Brooks Street store.
“He was hanging out in the shop and just jumped on one of the bikes and started going, so I got right behind him,” he said.
It was a big moment for 30-year-old Kern, who took over managing the shop in 2009 and eventually bought it from his father Rick, who started The Bicycle Hangar in 1980.
“It’s a huge sense of responsibility and also pride. He ran it for 30 years and there’s a huge amount of family pride in running the family business and keeping that going,” Kern said.
Since then, he’s continued to grow the company, including opening a second location downtown in late 2014. But the mentality of being a local, family bike shop has always come first.
“I get people who bought their first bike from my dad and now they are bringing their kid in because it’s time to buy them a bike,” Kern said.
Finding ways to give back to the community is also something Kern sees as a responsibility of owning a local business. He is the president of the local alumni association of the Sigma Nu fraternity — which he credits for teaching him leadership and organizational skills while a student at the University of Montana — and leverages the bike shop to help out organizations in Missoula.
“It would be easy for me to take a day off and go volunteer, but one person volunteering doesn’t do as much as organizing,” he said.
Twice a year, Kern hosts blood drives at the store for the American Red Cross, a move spurred after his wife Hailey was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in March 2014. Hailey went through months of chemotherapy at Providence St. Patrick Hospital before the cancer was declared in remission.
Each time the American Red Cross sets up in the parking lot of the shop, Kern encourages his employees to help sign up their family and friends.
For the past three years, while the event was held in Missoula, Kern was on the leadership team of the Montana Special Olympics State Summer Games. In May, during the third and final year of the games being hosted in town, each of the athletes brought their cycles to the shop for a safety inspection, with Kern saying they gave out free rentals to the people whose bikes his staff didn’t feel confident certifying as fully safe.
On the day of the cycling events, Kern closed down both of his locations for the day so all of his employees, as well as more than 30 other volunteers, could help out at the biking events.
“It was a great time. We all got to be out there working together and having fun.”