Interview with Chris Jones of Phoenix Bikes

Bike Shop, Phoenix BikesWe had the pleasure of talking with Chris Jones with Phoenix Bikes today.  Phoenix Bikes was nominated to receive $221.25 as part of our 1st quarter giveaway.  Even though they came in second place with the contest, they're a first-class organization!  In fact, at the bottom of our interview, we announce something special.  :-)


Q: Briefly describe the mission of Phoenix Bikes.

A: Phoenix Bikes' mission is to empower youth to become social entrepreneurs through direct participation in a financially and environmentally sustainable nonprofit bike shop that serves the community.

It's a learn-by-doing environment.  Youth come in and go through our process of learning to be mechanics by pulling a bike apart, learning all the parts, learning how the tools work, and building their own bike.  Along the way, they get involved in the cycling community, and normally gain some really strong positive friendships.  It's great to see the youth do so well, as they always do.

Beyond being a youth bike shop, we fix and sell used bikes and do repairs two days per week.  All of the money we raise goes directly back to funding youth programming.  At this point, we raise half of our annual budget directly through shop operations.


Q: What circumstances led to the creation of Phoenix Bikes?

A: The space Phoenix uses used to be a community bike shop called Community Spokes.  It was funded by Arlington County.  When Community Spokes lost its funding and closed, four people (Mat Emery, Constance Ohearn, Philip Eliot, and Bobbi Jeanquart, now on our board of directors) felt that it was too important a resource for the community to lose.  They found funding to re-open the shop, this time specifically-focused on training youth to be bike mechanics.  They chose the name Phoenix Bikes, as is rose from Community Spokes' ashes.


Q: What role do you play in Phoenix Bikes?

A: I've been a youth mentor and bike mechanic almost every Saturday for the past two and a half years.  I help the youth however it's needed, and help any customers who come in on Saturdays with whatever they need. Additionally, I joined the board of directors a year and a half ago as a representative of the volunteers.  On the board, I focus on how our educational programming should be developed and executed.  Additionally, I and a couple other people organized our annual fundraiser this year, which happened on April 8th and was a huge success.


Q: What do you enjoy most about your role?

A: I really enjoy teaching people, young or old, to work on their bikes.  I love seeing someone realize how not complex a bike really is, and how good it feels to know that they can fix their problems themselves.  Breaking tasks down into manageable chunks is empowering, I think.


Q: Tell us your favorite story of you were able personally impact someone else's life.

A: It seems like I see an "aha" moment every week, and it always feels great. A man named Florian has been coming around the shop the last few Saturdays, helping us out with some translation (my Spanish is horrible), and teaching me a bit.  I showed him how to true a wheel last week, and seeing him realize how non-complex that task is was great.  As for another recent story, a couple weeks ago, a middle school girl came in the shop looking to start in our Earn a Bike program.  I gave her a bike to pull apart, so that she'd get some exposure to the tools.  She was absolutely fearless and completely pulled a bike apart, down to a bare frame, in a few hours.  She's definitely going to be an excellent mechanic.


Q: How many adult volunteers do you have?  What do these volunteers do?

A: We have over 40 volunteers.  The volunteers are the core of the shop's operations, really.  They fix up used bikes for sale to help us keep our youth programming running.  They come on our Saturday Team Phoenix rides with the youth.  They run community nights at the shop, open to all who are interested in learning.  They're our backbone.


Q: As an organization, what are some of your most favorite accomplishments?

A: I'm really proud of Phoenix.  We've trained over 100 youth mechanics since we started three years ago, and been involved with a much larger number through community outreach activities.  Our volunteer community is really strong and welcoming to all, regardless of skill level.  We've created a space for everyone, and that makes me really happy.  The greatest accomplishments are seeing the youth do so well, of course.  We've had kids come in who were in trouble and doing poorly in school, and now are targeting going to college for engineering.  We've had kids come in with low self confidence, and now they're expert mechanics and some even race.  Other people look up to them.  It's great to know that you had a hand in that.


Q: How can someone in the Arlington, VA area get involved with Phoenix Bikes?

A: Every Tuesday night from 6 to 9pm is our all adults mechanics night.  It's fully-run by volunteers, and open to all skill levels (this is how I started coming, back when I could hardly change a tire).  Every Saturday is the Team Phoenix ride, which we love having extra volunteers on.  Otherwise, if anyone ever wants to come to the shop, they're more than welcome.  We can always find a way to fit people in.


Q: If someone wants to give a monetary gift, how can they do it?

A: We're happy to accept checks at our shop, which is at 4200 S Four Mile Run, at Barcroft Park in Arlington.  Otherwise, our website, has a donation form.  We're extremely efficient with our money, and we really appreciate your support.


Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: Thank you very much for doing this contest.  We've extremely small, and run on donation at a very significant level.  It's great to see people interested in the work we're doing.




yadaDROP is touched by the mission and story of Phoenix Bikes. Therefore we are awarding a special gift of $100 to their organization. We appreciate your commitment to your community and making a difference in the lives of young people.  Congratulations!