FREEPORT (AP) – As Tobie DePauw and Frank Geegaard celebrate the 1-year anniversary of their purchase of Freeport Bicycle Co., the future of their business looks just as rich as its long history.
The city will extend the Jane Addams Trail from Tutty’s Crossing to Monroe, Wisconisn, this year and, in the months ahead, a $1.5 million state grant will allow Freeport to stretch the Pecatonica Prairie Trail from Tutty’s Crossing to River Road near U.S. 20 along a Commonwealth Edison easement. Winnebago County has already completed a 12.5-mile stretch of the Pecatonica Prairie Trail from Meridian Road west to the Stephenson County line.
Freeport’s love affair with bicycles goes back to 1889. That’s when Daniel Stover and William Hance of Freeport patented a bicycle with a back-pedal brake. You can still see one of those bicycles on display at Freeport Bicycle Co., a shop with roots that go back to 1909, when it was known as Kegel’s Bicycle Shop.
The store went through numerous owners and name changes over the years. Owner Ron Mattson restored the name Freeport Bicycle Co. in 2005. DePauw and Geegaard of DeKalb bought the business from Mattson in April 2013. The two men own another bicycle shop in DeKalb called North Central Cyclery.
“This is a strong, sincere riding community,” DePauw said. “My passion is being part of a growing community, and I believe a bicycle can build relationships and foster a community.”
DePauw said he and his partner bought the established business because they were intrigued with the culture of bicycling in northern Illinois. As entrepreneurs, they explored the Freeport area in the fall of 2012. They knew the strength of Mattson’s business and liked that the Jane Addams Trail is a frequent place for bicycle travel.
DePauw said they’ve had a successful first year.
“We see many factors in a growing downtown Freeport,” he said. “This is a community that is behind riding and has many bike trails. It’s such a destination, and my partner and I want to make sure Freeport is that destination for riding.”
DePauw said the store has expanded its selection of bicycles in the past year.
“We strive to have a fresh approach to retail,” DePauw said. “It’s people-centered, not product-centered, and it’s about meeting the needs of the rider. We focus on all styles of riders. It is our passion to grow ridership in this area and create a culture for the rider.”
Managing the day-to-day operations of the shop is Sam Tykol, who has moved to Freeport from the DeKalb area.
“We are all about the retail, with clothing and bicycle repair,” Tykol said. “The history of the store is really appealing, and that is what we are committed to – making it stay strong.”