Every proper town is built on pillars—those fixtures of the community which silently plug away at whatever it is they do to make life a little bit better. It’s easy to pass them by. They become part of the landscape, a forgettable piece of everyday life, but letting them fade into the background seems like an injustice.
The Cotati Hub Cyclery is one such pillar.
“As corny as it sounds, after 30 years of running a business you might have good and bad customers and good and bad experiences, but you also become part of the community,” owner, Claire Fetrow said. “People will come in with so much change happening around them and they’ll see and us and say, ‘Oh my God! You’re still here!’”
The Hub Cyclery is located along Old Redwood Highway on that stretch of road between Peets and central Cotati. It’s a quaint little store that’s almost half a century old run by a husband and wife team, Chaz and Claire Fetrow.
The Fetrows’ actually met at the Hub Cyclery back in their early days with the shop about 30 years ago. Claire wandered into the store one afternoon to get her bike fixed in preparation for a two-day ride. There she met Chaz, who was the new, proud owner of the shop, and the two hit it off almost immediately. They bonded over their shared love for bicycles.
As they tell it, it’s a match made in heaven.
“It’s kind of the perfect fit. I’m definitely into the mechanical side of the job, but I’m not much of a people person,” Chaz said. “Claire takes care of all the hard stuff. I just take care of the bicycles.”
A lot can change in thirty years and Sonoma County is no exception. In the Fetrows’ time with the shop they’ve withstood the Great Recession, a difficult move with an even more difficult landlord and last year’s wildfires. Times change and people change with them—so do shopping habits, as it turns out.
The growth of online retailers in recent years has placed the Fetrows under a little bit of pressure. It doesn’t threaten their ability to stay in business, but they admitted to a slight slowdown in smaller purchases.
But by far it’s the change in shopper’s attitudes that has proven the most startling. “Today I had someone in here and they were googling price information on the item they were asking me questions about,” Claire said. “It’s almost cavalier with how they act. They come in and they treat you like you’re not needed, but yet they’re still here walking around in your store. There’s a certain arrogance to it.”
Nevertheless, the Fetrows continue to show up to work day in and day out. It’s what they love. Sonoma County is their home and their community and in times of trouble the Fetrows have proven that they’re more than willing to marshal their resources and help those in need.
Last year is a perfect example. After the wildfires devastated Sonoma County, the Hub Cyclery stepped up and launched a donation drive to get bicycles into the hands of those that lost the most. The drive drew in donations from all across the Bay Area and after a whole bunch of elbow grease and repair, gave away over a hundred refurbished bicycles to wildfire victims.
It all started with one donation.
“That very first day we opened and that very first call was this woman. She says, ‘Do you have this specific bike?’ It was just this girl’s bike. I said ‘yeah’. She goes, ‘We just came in and bought that bike from you last week. It was the one bike my daughter wanted and we lost our house,’” Claire said. “This little girl shows up with her uncle and you could tell they’d been through it. The uncle comes up to the cash register and we say, ‘We’re just gonna give this to you.’ He started bawling his head off. This big, huge guy had to walk into the back room. That was the beginning of the program.”
Residents of Cotati and Rohnert Park can find the Fetrows manning the Hub Cyclery in the afternoon from Wed. to Sun. Here’s hoping this fixture of the community remains for many years to come.