Profile: Brad Smith

By Bryan Perry |

“I like this job because I like fixing things. I like working with my hands. I came from a family of people that did that. I like taking something that isn’t working and make it work. It’s something I find very satisfying.”

“This is my third career. I started as a Naval officer. I spent 24 years in active duty in the Navy, then spent an additional 12 years working with the Department of Defense. Having been in the military most of our lives and told where to live and going to where I was sent, I told my wife it was her turn to pick when I retired. She said: ‘I want to live in a town that doesn’t have a stoplight.” I said: ‘I know this town in Pennsylvania. It’s really tiny. You might like it.’  Confluence fit the bill. We came up for a long weekend and she fell in love with the place.

“The bike shop was an afterthought. I had been a cyclist all my life. I learned from watching some of my contemporaries retire that if you go home and sit down in your rocking chair and watch T.V., you die. You have to stay active, mentally and physically. On one our trips to Confluence before moving here, we walked out of what used to be a café two doors down and saw a ‘For Sale’ sign in the window of this place. So that’s how Confluence Cyclery got started.

“We bought this building in 2006 but didn’t move here until June of 2008. It was originally Kurtz’ Department Store, built after 1904. We met the granddaughter of Harvey Kurtz. We wanted to return it to the way it looked originally so we gutted it and started from scratch. The community really liked that.

“We shop in town as much possible. Sometimes we go out of town to buy things we can’t get here, but we try to keep the money local. If you want businesses to stay you have to patronize them. It’s all about a sense of community. The other thing we do is fix kids’ bikes. The labor’s always free. I can’t afford to give them new parts but I usually have a supply of used parts. About 90 percent of the time we can fix whatever the issue is.

“Not having any experience at all in the retail world, I really didn’t know what to expect when we first started. Last year the business just went berserk. We ran out of new bikes. People started dragging bikes out of their basements. I literally had bikes that came out of a barn because they had hay and feathers on them. Who knows how long they’d been there? People would ask, ‘Can you fix it up?’ It got to the point I was so backed up that I had to close the shop two days a week just to keep up with the repairs.

“If we have any philosophy here, it’s getting people on the right bike. The number of people that we see who aren’t on the right bike is amazing. Either it’s the wrong size or the wrong type. It’s sad because they’re not comfortable. And if you’re not comfortable you won’t ride it and you wasted your money. Cycling is a sport you can do all your life. We get people from all over the world off the Great Allegheny Passage in our bike shop. That’s what’s cool about this job. We meet people from all over the world and the U.S.

“I like this job because I like fixing things. I like working with my hands. I do a fair amount of wood working. I came from a family of people that did that. I like taking something that isn’t working and make it work. It’s something I find very satisfying.”

This content was created by Anita Harnish for the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy and funded in part by a grant from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation administered through the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s Laurel Highlands Mini Grant Program, and in part by the Somerset County Tourism Grant Program.

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