Ten years ago, a flat tire on the Macdonald Bridge changed the way Marc Rickard thought about his work life. At that time, he found himself riding his bike across the span twice a day to commute from his temporary apartment rental in Halifax, to his job on the Dartmouth waterfront and back. He and his partner had just moved back to Nova Scotia after living on the West Coast, and Marc found work with his former employer as a luxury yacht builder. One day, on the way to work, he blew a tire and could not find anywhere within walking distance to get a tube to repair it.
“There was just nowhere in Dartmouth where I could find bike parts. It seemed like all the bike shops were on the Halifax side. I thought if I felt this way, others must too.”
He recalls coming by the knowledge and skill set as a boy - encouraged by his father to join him in appreciating bicycles. When Rickard was seven years old, he remembers one summer day as his dad watched him take a bike apart in the driveway of their North End Halifax home. The Rickards would later move to Dartmouth’s Crichton Park neighbourhood when Marc was ten.
Marc at age 10 in front of a CCM bike he refurbished himself
“My dad saw what I had done and took me over to Jack Nauss’ bike shop in Halifax. Nauss was so patient and showed me how to put a bike together. Then he invited me back to learn from him for the rest of the summer.”
Rickard says he gained an incredible knowledge of bicycle repair from Nauss. A skill that came in handy when he later went on a year-long cycling tour across New Zealand in his late twenties.
“I knew how to fix bikes inside and out. Plus, I love bikes. I thought I could fill a need in the community by starting something on the side.”
Rickard explored potential spaces to rent in downtown Dartmouth that might be suitable for a small bike repair shop. He says he was surprised at the number of vacancies on Portland Street, and at the affordability of commercial rent. Rickard settled on a small storefront at 25 Portland Street.
“The cost per square foot was less than renting a U-Haul storage locker, so I was willing to take the risk of giving it a try.”
The Bike Pedaler opened in May 2011. Within two weeks of business, Rickard says the shop had so many customers, he could not keep up with demand. Within a month he had to hire a staff member to assist him. Within three months, he had four staff hustling to keep up.
“The community has been pretty great overall. I appreciate how many people go out of their way to come to us.”
Marc at work inside the first location of The Bike Pedaler in 2011
Over the past decade, The Bike Pedaler has continued to grow, and so has Downtown Dartmouth. Rickard says he is pleased to see the business community rising around him, but with this success, property prices and demand are also on the rise. Three years ago, he was forced to move the shop to 61 Portland Street due to construction. Rickard says he appreciates the larger location, but it literally took a village to make it happen.
“Thanks to a crowd sourcing campaign, we were able to raise the funds to move to this new space - in six weeks!”
Marc outside his first location on Portland Street in 2011
Today, The Bike Pedaler is busier than ever. Demand for bicycles, parts and service increased dramatically during the pandemic and has not slowed down. Rickard has eight people on staff, and he could hire more if space permitted. The shop is open six days a week, even though he now commutes in from the Bridgewater area. His family bought a home there this summer, after finding themselves priced out of the Dartmouth market.
“I love downtown Dartmouth. When I first opened the shop here, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable bringing my kids here, but now I feel completely safe both day and night. I want to be a part of this community for as long as possible.”
2021 Portrait by James Maclean: