The neighborhood bike shop's space is small. Its vibe is local, coastal. The style is strictly mom-and-pop.
Bernie, the guy who started it all, is long retired. In his place, is Bernie's heir apparent, Roger Lovett. Lovett is the fourth person to have owned the OB establishment at 1911 Cable St. He's owned the shop, founded in 1968, since 1989.
Asked about his products and services, Lovett replied, “I just fix bikes. No rentals. We repair and sell new bikes.”
Bernie's also sells all the stuff anyone would need to maintain their bikes — lubricants, tires, chains, seats, general maintenance stuff, lights, baskets, etc.
What needs fixing most at Bernie's Bicycle Shop OB?
“Flat tires,” said Tony Julian, a friend of the Lovett who helps them out. “Summertime, there are a lot of people who let their bikes sit all winter, and then they take them out and get flats (punctures) in the dirt or from bushes.”
Lovett had some free advice to offer about avoiding bicycle flats.
“Stay off the dirt at Robb Field, stay on the (bike) paths,” he counseled, noting those riding on the dirt at Robb Field are likely to encounter tree thorns, which cause flats.
Fixing a tire costs about $10 or so depending on type, and is something few people know how to — or care to — do themselves.
On a recent Monday morning, Bernie's is busy. A handful of customers crowd the shop's narrow space. One person has brought in a bike with a flat tire. Another has rescued a small bike that has been tossed in a dumpster. He is asking Lovett to give him a repair estimate. It's a perfectly good bike. A little rusty. Lovett estimates $60 at most to repair it.
The clientele at Bernie’s, even during the summer, is mostly local.
“It's about 60 or 70 percent local, the rest are tourists,” said Julian.
“We like biking,” responded Lovett about the appeal of owning his own bike shop, estimating 80 to 90 percent of Obecians own one.
The most expensive new bike for sale at Bernie's is about $800. You can get your basic “boardwalk cruiser” for about $200 new, noted Lovett.
Bernie's only employees are Lovett and his wife, Yasuko.
“We're movin' out and I've got a nephew who needs a bike, so this is the place to be,” said an Obecian who has just brought a child's bike in for repairs. “If anybody can bring it back to life it's these guys,” adds the customer, noting, “I've been going to Bernie's Bike Shop since it was on Voltaire.”
Lovett said being a bike shop owner is “kinda” what he expected to do with his career.
“I started (bike) racing when I was 8 years old, and I hung out at Bernie’s,” said the Point Loma native. “I came down here and body surfed and boogie boarded.”
How did Lovett get to be Bernie's hand-picked successor?
“I got a job at another bike shop, and when he decided to retire, he sold it to me cheap,” Lovett said. “He knew I'd keep it going. He wanted to keep it going.”
Will Bernie's still be there in 10 years?
“I don't know if I will be,” responded the 55-year-old Lovett, who knows he, like Bernie before him, will have to find his replacement to carry on his business after he's gone.
Bernie’s Bicycle Shop
Where: 1911 Cable St.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays