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By JOHN LEE McLAUGHLIN
Daily News Staff Writer
Dean Garcia has spent many a day combing the Ketchikan landfill. He looks for anything good, and at times, that could be just bolts or tarps.
Of late, however, Garcia has taken a more refined approach to his salvage runs, but the landfill remains where the 26-year-old “Deano” gets the bulk of his bicycles.
And he has stacks of the two-wheelers, and now, a full-time business.
“I recycle, refurbish and reuse trash,” Garcia explained this past week at his First City Cycles, a state-licensed bike shop among other separate businesses under the umbrella of Made in America - AK, including Soil King, Vollara, World Ventures and Melaleuca Inc.
“I’m a salvager,” Garcia added. “I’m all about making something out of nothing.”
To some, trashed bikes might seem to be just that, and some are. Nearly all come from Walmart, he said. But with the know-how and some wrenching, the ones worth saving are easily overhauled into a “brand-used” bike, he said.
And the main goal, said Garcia, who also sources bikes from Bellingham, Washington, is to get people peddling, and peddling safely in Ketchikan.
“I’m not looking for the money,” he said. “I’m just trying to create a movement on the island. It’s like, ‘Wake up people, everyone else in Sitka and Juneau and Anchorage, they’re all biking it up.’”
Garcia previously serviced bikes in Ketchikan, at times living out of his truck, and always needing side work.
That’s all changed. First City Cycles — now the only bike-specific shop in town — delivered for the first time a full-time cyclery for the man originally from San Clemente, California.
“I tried opening up last Fourth of July (2016), but unfortunately, it was just too much,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do when you have no money, and I needed a little cash to get some signs made, get T-shirts made, (get) some stock in and be able to provide a service.”
“So this is my first year — completely, 110 percent — surviving off bicycle repairs,” Garcia said, “and I’m still pretty much word of mouth, word of mouth and (business) cards.”
As for the shop, the options are varied at 1935 Tongass Ave, with older Cannondale, Specialized and Raleigh rigs — preference is given to at least American-manufactured bikes — peppered among relics like Peugeot road bikes.
Garcia said he also dabbles in new parts, and some gently used newer bikes and Prodeco electric cycles are also available.
Then there’s the service side of things, and his approach is three-pronged: Bikes can come to him; he can come to the bikes; or bike owners can rent a stand and tools and do their own work.
Garcia said he ultimately wants to become a full-on nonprofit community bike shop, similar to The Hub Community Bike Shop at Bellingham, where he previously worked and drew influence.
“The way I see them running things, I’m pretty much doing it the same, exact way,” Garcia said. “You know, so they kind of taught me.”
In the meantime, business is good and growing in Ketchikan, he said, with a backlog of docketed bike repairs, the bread and butter of First City Cycles.
“Little by little, it’s getting more apparent to the community, but I still haven’t put an ‘open’ sign, really, anywhere, but if I crack that (bay) door open, people start flowing in pretty quickly,” he said. “If I have the door open completely, with my sign out there, then it’s like I really need to have more than just myself working here.”