Amber Hammons moved to the Midlands from Mississippi in August to work at the Bike Street bicycle shop. A month later, Bike Street closed, leaving Hammons in limbo in a new town.
“I was just kind of free floating,” she said.
But her former boss, who also lost his job when Bike Street closed, had a plan. Matt Rinella opened FreeHub Bicycles last month, ensuring Lexington had a bike shop and offering Hammons a job as manager.
The new store, at 433 Columbia Ave., is a full-service bicycle shop, selling bikes, clothing and accessories and offering repairs. Cannondale, Scott, Raleigh, BMC and Santa Cruz are its main bike lines. The store also plans to offer seminars and classes on topics including massage therapy, sports therapy, and diet and nutrition.
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“We will offer something for everyone’s interests, from the beginner to the weekend warrior and the seasoned veterans,” Rinella said. “Cycling is a lifestyle that we want to encourage and promote.
Hammons said folks in the Midlands’ cycling community have found the new shop. But she hopes more in the area will discover cycling.
“Our tag line is ‘for the joy of the ride,’ ” Rinella said. “FreeHub is much more than about selling bicycles. We offer a more holistic approach to the entire cycling experience, and offer anyone, whether they are 6 or 60 years old, a place to share their experiences.”
Hammons is happy to have the opportunity to continue pursuing her passion.
She worked her way through college in Mississippi by repairing bicycles. When she graduated last May with her sociology degree, she considered two paths: go to graduate school to become a professor or continue working with bicycles.
“Why not go into a job I’m really excited about every day instead of taking on more debt?” she reasoned.
FreeHub has one other location on Woodruff Road in Greenville and is in the process of opening a second Greenville location.
Rinella owned three Ride On bicycle shops in Greenville before selling to Bike Street, which also bought Bike to Nature and Harrell’s Bicycle World in the Midlands two years ago.
“They were buying up mom-and-pop bicycle shops across the Southeast,” Rinella said. But the company went bankrupt last year. That left some communities, including Lexington, with fewer options for cyclists.
“That didn’t sit well with me,” Rinella said. “We felt there was an opportunity there.”
With Hammons available to manage the new store, Rinella said the decision was easy. “I knew I had somebody good to run the shop.”
Ollie’s opening second location
Ollie’s Bargain Warehouse will open a second location in the Midlands this spring at 300 St. Andrews Road, hiring up to 55 workers.
The discount outlet, which sells home goods, items for home renovation projects and even some food, will be similar to its Garners Ferry Road location, which opened three years ago, spokesman Jerry Altland said. However, it will be slightly smaller — 25,000 square feet.
The Harrisburg, Pa.,-based discounter will go into the former Fresh Market building, which most recently was a call center, across from Tuesday Morning. The company hopes to open the store by the end of April, Altland said.
“We’ve always looked for a second location in Columbia,” he said, but company officials had not been able to find the right deal. The spot became available last year when the call center moved.
Officials also considered Northeast Richland but likely won’t open a third store in the market, Altland said. “We’re happy with two stores in Columbia.”