The Story of
AJ'S Bike Service
OWNER AND LEAD MECHANIC
Interestingly enough, I was not raised by a family of cyclists. My interest in cycling actually began when I was attending welding school at my local community college. I wanted to get my hands dirty and keep learning, and I obtained a position at Livermore Cyclery in 2015 up until its closure in 2020. During my time there, I learned advanced techniques for bicycle mechanics and started out on the journey that would eventually lead me to having my own bike shop today.
My years at Livermore Cyclery meant the world to me, the team was like family to me. It was really amazing starting out at the very bottom, from just a new bike-in-box assembler and then working my way up into repairs and becoming one of the lead mechanics.
Over the years, I had the pleasure of working on so many bikes and gaining so much experience. I got to attend multiple training events at Specialized Bicycle Headquarters, work on various professional riders’ bikes and gain so many valuable skills. Livermore Cyclery provided me so many opportunities and gave me the foundation for the knowledge that now benefits my clients and business today. After they closed their doors, I set out to continue providing quality service to the Livermore community by starting my journey of opening my own bicycle service and repair shop.
After the closure of Livermore Cyclery and the beginning of the COVID Shelter in Place in 2020, I found myself without employment and unable to pay my rent. This time was especially difficult because I was actively living as a victim of domestic violence. In trying to find solace and peace, I took to the old workbench that I had obtained when Livermore Cyclery closed. I realized that in front of me was the means to repair and service bikes and that I had everything I needed to find purpose for myself once more. I took to my social media pages and made a simple post about offering some services to friends, and the tangible idea of AJ’s Bike Service LLC took off from there.
I was pleasantly surprised during the beginning phases of my business idea. I was working on 7-10 bikes a day, 5-6 days a week as of the first week of April 2020, and after that, it really never stopped.
After the momentous growing support I received, I decided to officiate my business June 2020 and officially open AJs Bike Service LLC, a completely residentially-based bicycle repair business offering same day to following day turn around and affordable rates to the local community.
When I started AJs Bike Service LLC, I wanted to fill a void that Livermore Cyclery had left when they closed. I wanted to continue the level of work I did everyday and really excelled at. I wanted to be my client’s own mechanic, I wanted to be the ONLY mechanic from start to finish on every job, someone who customers could not only engage with, but build a relationship with.
I quickly started seeing success and impressing clients with the level of work that I offered at a residential level. It wasn’t much to start, but I was finally paying my bills and keeping myself above water for the time being.
Fast forward nearly one year later, in early 2021.
I started getting continuous and completely false complaints about my business operation. I was issued a Cease and Desist order from the city, due to code violations. Although I wasn't doing anything illegal, I was technically not in code for a business in a residential area, even though I had my LLC, business license, business insurance, and everything needed to operate a legitimate business in the City of Livermore.
I wrote a petition stating sections of code that showed I was operating just like other businesses residentially but within all parameters so I knew that I had to fight for my right to work. Within a week I received over 10,000 signatures in order to allow me to come back to work. The petition gained the attention of news stations as well as the mayor and I was advised to bring my case to the city council to explain why I was within legal means of operating and continuing my business residentially. Here's an article and a news story!
When the dust settled, I had won the entire battle and was allowed to return to work in March 2021. When I reopened, I had booked 6 weeks of work in just a week's time due to the overwhelming response of support from the newscast and local newspaper story. I couldn't keep up with all the phone calls and messages and people reaching out from over 100 miles away. I really couldn't believe it and it was one of the best feelings ever to know how many thousands of people came to my support and who believed in me and my business.
However, right as I had started to pick up momentum and was catching up from being unable to work for almost a month, my mental health began to decline again due to the domestic abuse situation I had been enduring since 2018. Due to the severity of my situation and fear for my own safety, I needed to contact police and leave where I was currently living and running my business from. My residential business gave me a safe space from the day to day abuse and allowed me to show the community and the world who I truly was. I got to be me and do what I did best and I just kept hoping something would happen to get me out of the terrible nightmare I was living in when I had to close the garage for the day. No wonder why I was so obsessed and never wanted to work less than 12 hours.
From the ashes, with my business keeping me afloat and giving me purpose, I began rebuilding my entire life and beginning to heal from years of trauma. I had dissociated so long to just handle the ongoing daily abuse and truly lost myself for so many years. I’m still in therapy today, but I found that in the end, one of the things that saved me and helped me remember who I was and rediscover myself was the creation of my business.
In the Fall/Winter of 2021, business slowed to a near standstill. In removing myself from the worst situation I had ever been in and losing grasp of my own life, I lost all of my momentum I gained from that re opening and news story that had gained me so much support. I couldn’t pay any of my bills yet again and I was at a loss for what to do. I reflected on how far I’d come and the courage I’d needed to take care of my own mental and physical health. I knew I couldn’t let domestic violence take away all I’d worked for and held dear. I pushed through, because I knew it wasn’t over yet. I wasn’t ready to give up. I stayed determined, and slowly but surely, business returned. I was able to make connections, participate in community events, and slowly build back up from all I’d lost. Through the following year, I continued to steadily gain more success, all residentially based.
Come January 2022, I saw an opening for rent at 1414 Portola Avenue here in Livermore.
I met with the former renter, a fellow local business owner Bill Wheeler of WheelHouse Garage, who told me I just had to move in and how amazing a place it would be for my shop. This opportunity was the perfect start up location for AJ’s Bike Service LLC.
On February 14th, 2022, AJ’s Bike Service LLC officially moved in. With help from my family and my amazing partner Emily, we began building the shop, getting electrical and internet sorted, and construction to make the shop ready for use. Finally, everything felt like it was falling into place. Upon the shop opening on March 16th, the Mayor Bob Woerner joined by the Chamber of Commerce put together a very special Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to celebrate the expansion and opening of AJ's BIke Service LLC after the long and grueling fight that took place. This was a very special day, the Mayor himself presented me with an award of congratulations for changing Livermore history and its city code in favor of small residentially based businesses, just like the one I started myself. I had almost 100 people come to the grand opening, and it was one of the best days of my life. The amount of family, friends, and support that had shown up to celebrate was amazing. It couldn't have been any better. :)
Despite a long and hard journey to get where I am today, this is only the beginning. With the overwhelmingly continued support from the community and my ever-growing clientele base I am excited to see where new opportunities take me.