Christmas came late for Adam Belz.
A week or so before Jesus’ b-day, Belz and his little boy dropped off dad’s rusted-out Specialized at a south Minneapolis bike shop. His two-wheeled whip was old and had a busted axle. For $100, Nokomis Cycle owner Dwight Gronlund said he could fix and tune up the shaky old bicycle.
“I already knew [Gronlund] was a straight shooter because he sold me a used seat for $5 a few months ago,” Belz wrote in a Facebook post shared more than 1,400 times.
Days later, Belz got the call that his bike was ready. But the holidays left him too busy to make it in, so he opted to pick it up in January. When he returned on Tuesday night, Gronlund disappeared down the shop’s back stairs and came back with a sparkling new Raleigh — definitely not the clunker Belz arrived with.
“I thought there’d been a mixup,” wrote Belz, who declined an interview request. “He said, with a twinkle in his eye, ‘Well, a Secret Santa came along and decided you should have that. You just take care of that little boy of yours and teach him about Santa Claus.’”
Prior to this good-spirited Kris Kringle lesson, the extent of their relationship was a cheap bicycle seat. Suddenly, Gronlund was giving Belz a $400 new ride — selected because it was a similar style to his old one — instead of taking a C-note off of him. For five minutes Belz tried to pay the benevolent bike man, though Gronlund refused. Eventually Belz folded, accepting the gift with a thank you. “I still can’t quite get my head around it,” Belz wrote.
When Belz first dropped off his bike, Gronlund couldn’t believe it was still being ridden and declared it totaled. The 53-year-old father of two saw Belz’s infant son and figured a good chunk of his paychecks were earmarked for the baby boy.
“Times are tight when you got kids,” says the longtime South Sider.
Nokomis Cycle was born in the mid-'90s, when Gronlund turned his repair shop into a store. Over the years he’s donated the occasional bike to charity or a neighborhood group, but pauses briefly when asked if he has a Secret Santa habit.
“I don’t know. I’ve been here 20 years. You find people and help ‘em out here and there,” he says bashfully.
Accepting Belz’s money wasn’t an option for this man of exceptional radness. That’s not how Secret Santas work, he says. But really, Santa’s not so “secret” at all.
He’s adjusting someone’s brake cables on Bloomington Avenue.