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Spotlight: Iconic Bloomfield bike shop puts community first

Ann Rachel and Mike Wolf with several models of the electric bikes that they sell at Bloomfield Bicycle & Repair.

Thirteen was a big year for Mike Wolf. He finally got a horse, promised when the family still lived in Brooklyn, as a bar-mitzvah gift from his dad, Peter. And he started working as a bike mechanic after school in the nascent family business.
That was 1953, when Wolf was already known around the neighborhood as the go-to kid if your bike needed fixing. In 1955, Peter opened Bloomfield Bicycle & Repair Shop. “Dad opened the shop because he never had any formal education and his whole world was for his sons and daughter to learn how to take care of themselves,” Wolf says. “He was a mechanic and could fix anything. He taught me the art of repairs.”
Born in New York to Jewish-German immigrants, Peter grew up in South Fallsburg, N.Y., in the heart of the Catskills Borscht Belt. The family lived on a farm, which they also ran as a kosher proto-resort for vacationing city-folk. There, Peter met Estelle, visiting with her family from Brooklyn. The couple married and settled in Brooklyn, where Peter worked several jobs.  One of those jobs brought them to Ohio. After a year in Ohio, the family moved to Bloomfield in 1950, where they later helped start Beth Hillel Synagogue.
Once he picked up a bicycle wrench, Mike, now 71, never left the family business. It is the oldest independent bicycle dealer in Connecticut, and once comprised seven stores throughout the region. Over the last several years, Wolf has sold five locations to his partners, keeping the Bloomfield shop and The Bicycle Cellar in Simsbury.
This is another big year for Mike Wolf. His shop was inducted into the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame. It was recognized as the largest retailer of electric bikes in New England, and maybe even on the entire East Coast.
E-bike technology was first developed around 30 years ago, and while it has become a transportation staple in many European countries, it has only begun to gain popularity in the U.S. over the last few years. Wolf first decided to stock e-bikes 15 years ago, but when it took him a full year to sell three units, he vowed never to carry them again. Five years ago, when rising gas prices sparked a new public conversation about alternative transportation, Wolf did a lot of homework and came up with a new plan. Now, he sells one electric bike a day during the week, and up to six on most weekends.
And why not? says Wolf, who needs no help enumerating the e-bike’s long list of advantages over other types of motorized transportation: no gas, no license, no insurance, no property tax, no registration…and no sitting in traffic jams or searching for hard-to-find parking spaces. The e-bike, which can cruise up to 20 miles per hour, is also street legal.
Ten years ago, Wolf remarried and his wife, Ann Rachel, left an executive position with AT&T to help him run Bloomfield Bike. The shop has received many awards and citations from Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, along with a slew of local officials. They cite the longevity of the 56-year-old business, as well as the Wolfs’ efforts to promote the ecologically friendly, money-saving electric bicycle which, notes Wolf, “helps you burn calories, not carbon.”
“We’re going green with everything we do,” says Wolf, who is involved with the planned bike trail in Bloomfield, and whose Simsbury shop is an integral part of the Farmington Valley Greenway.
The Wolfs say that, more than the accolades lining their storefront window, it’s the thank-you plaques and certificates mounted high on the entrance-way wall that make them proudest, presented by the numerous local and national organizations they have helped.
The Wolfs are also committed members of the local Jewish community. They volunteered for several years at Hebrew Health Care, and donate several bicycles every year to fundraisers at the Mandell JCC and local synagogues. Mike was chairman of the JCC health spa for 10 years in the ’90s. Ann Rachel has served at United Synagogues of Greater Hartford, as board chair and currently as president. A child survivor of the Holocaust, born in a Displaced Persons camp, she says she has a fierce and loving dedication to Judaism and family. The Wolfs have four grown daughters and nine grandchildren.
“We feel very lucky that we are able to do what we do,” says Mike. “Any church, synagogue, or civic organization in the community can walk into Bloomfield Bike and will walk out with a donation for their fundraiser. We have learned that what comes around goes around, and we give back because the fact is that the community has given us the ability to give. The bottom line is that we enjoy giving.”

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