In 2007, Brent Fuqua had fallen from operating a successful photography business into a crushing addiction to prescription painkillers. After he'd lost his job as well as his long-term partner, he checked himself in to Progress Valley in Minneapolis, a drug recovery center.
There, Fuqua would go on long bike rides to clear his head of the shame and stress that cluttered his thoughts. When he saw that his friends at the halfway house didn't have bikes of their own, he set up shop in the garage, fixing a pile of broken ones that former residents had discarded.
Soon, he built a name for himself as a mechanic. People in the neighborhood started dropping off their bikes for Fuqua to tune. Those in recovery who had lost their driver's licenses or couldn't afford to drive suddenly had another means of getting to work.
In thanks, Fuqua's brothers in recovery conspired to carve him a wooden sign proclaiming "Recovery Bike Shop." In 2011, Fuqua partnered with Seth Stattmiller of Re-Cyle garage in Uptown and launched his own bike shop: Recovery in Northeast.
"I began to change," Fuqua says. "For some reason after I got myself detoxed and went through treatment, I found one of my core values that I'd lost track of. All of a sudden I had this heart that just cared about everybody I came into contact with, and that's what made this shop grow into a $1 million company."
Recovery Bike Shop now employs 17 workers who strip down, rebuild, and tune up used bikes for profit and philanthropy. About 7,000 bikes a year pass through, and 1,000 are ultimately sold. Fuqua ships more than 2,000 to Africa at no profit and gives bikes away to local nonprofits like Full Cycle, which runs internship programs for homeless and inner-city kids. His spare wheels became fencing around urban gardens; artists turned his old tires into belts.
In Minneapolis, which has just been named No. 18 on Wired Magazine's list of the 20 most bike-friendly cities on the planet, there are bikers of all different needs and specialties. But Recovery has remained true to the no-frills urban commuter, Fuqua says.
"I knew why I was doing it. There was a transportation need in this community of people that I had become a part of, and I was meeting that transportation need," he says. "I needed a job, and I needed to do something good. My employees want paychecks, but the main purpose has always been doing something good."
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