Toronto's newest bike repair started by someone who lost their job due to COVID-19
At the onset of the pandemic, Toronto resident Mark Cheel was laid off.
The 34-year-old had been working as a project manager in construction for a few months but as the city descended into lockdown, Cheel was fired from his job in late March.
It's been a rough time since then. Not long after he was fired, Mark's wife was also let go from her job, and in June his mother passed away from cancer. As a father of two young boys, Cheel knew he had to do something to get by.
CheelsWheels is open for business! Busy day today. Bikes in progress and bikes waiting for pickup. If you’re worried about #socialdistancing I always wear gloves when working and wipe down the entire bike after the work has been completed. Thank you #weston for your support of this little garage start-up. #toronto #bicycle #repair
So he converted his single car garage — which is attached to his home in Weston — into a bike repair shop called Cheels Wheels. For the past three months, has been tuning up bikes, truing wheels and repairing flats to support his family.
"I just wanted to be able to put groceries on the table," says Cheels. "I've been able to do that, and that's been the nice thing."
Cheels says he's been repairing bikes for nearly two decades. It was his first part-time job at 14 years-old, and a weekend job he kept up during high school and university.
A few days after he was fired, he posted to his Weston community Facebook page, and has been getting somewhere between five to 10 bikes a week.
"I was fortunate enough that, when I was let go, I had this skill that I could fall back on... [Weston] has a real cycling community, being so close to the Humber."
Cheels Wheels tune ups start at $40, and flat repairs with the tube are $20. Cheels also offers bike pickup and delivery services for $15 flat for those who can't ride it over themselves.
His business comes in the middle of a bike boom, prompted by the pandemic but come winter Cheels will have to find a new way to make a living.
"I really haven't thought that far ahead, to be honest with you, we'll see," he says.
"The bike shop, though it's been small and modest, it's been a silver lining. I'm able to work on something that's a passion of mine and still be able to feed and clothe my family."
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