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For the past few years whenever I visited Asbury Park, NJ a bike shop on the corner of Main Street and Springwood Ave always caught my eye. There was always something placed at the front door or a cleaver message on the blackboard leaning against the entrance. This year there was a skeleton wearing a Santa outfit that finally drew me in.

Inside I found Pete Leather working on an old Dutch bike. He explained the program and the history of Second Life Bikes and its founder Kerri Martin.

It is an enormous space defined by high exposed brick walls with hundreds of bikes of every size and share, including one unicycle. I had my camera with me and asked Pete if I could take some photos of the place as the visual repetition of the bikes, parts and accessories are one of my favorite themes.

When I reviewed the photos that evening I liked what I saw and decided to return to take additional photos and I wanted to meet Kerri. Jenni’s interest was piqued when she saw the photos and heard the story. So we returned together. Jenni discussion with Kerri follows and my photos are found in the Slideshow section.

Kerri Martin hails from Freehold, NJ, born into what she describes as a very normal middle class family, an only daughter surrounded by three brothers.

Appearing to be a delicate and sensitive beauty, she backpacked and biked extensively across Europe while in school. She’s actually backed by a core of steel with a heart as soft as a rose petal. She thought briefly about becoming a social worker  but ended up working for a German investment company on Wall Street, a job that ended on 9/11 as she watched the plane crash into the World Trade Center as she biked down the  West Side Highway. She immediately rethought her life and purpose.

Kerri worked in Manhattan and Fair Haven and Brielle in New Jersey restoring and repairing bicycles until she made the brave decision to peddle off on her own and begin her own business in Asbury Park, NJ, an old resort town poised to return to her former glory by an adventurous alternative lifestyle population  She utilized space in a garage located at Holy Spirit Church generously provided by Father William McLaughlin, then moved to the Jersey Shore Rescue Mission prior to finding space in Asbury Park in a location that most business owners would overlook.

It turned out to be ideal for her blossoming bike philosophy: build it and they will come.  Second Life Bikes was born. Accepting donations of used bikes in any condition, teaching kids how to repair bikes and having them earn by work effort to obtain bikes that they could otherwise never afford, business (if you can call it a business) is booming.  Pete Leather, her right hand mechanic and equally brilliant conversationalist, have their hands full working long hours managing a myriad of curious visitors, teaching kids, fielding phone calls and walk in requests as well as customizing and restoring bikes.

As Kerri reiterates, they aren’t really about customer service and business in the strict sense of the word. It’s about a passion for supporting and teaching an elemental way of life that has almost been lost in the suburbs of America. It’s a way of respecting the bicycle, no matter the condition, as a piece of functional sculpture and chronicle of history, and as a way of giving back to a community that provides a very satisfying life for a young woman whose feet are securely on the ground (unless she’s biking) with a creative genius and positive vision of growth in clear direction without surrendering her values.

She lives locally, has never owned a car, and supports other local business entrepreneurs with the same philosophy: offer something wonderful from your heart and mind and it comes back to you. As the brochure states: “We rescue bikes.  We fix bikes. We sell bikes. We earn bikes. We ride bikes.  We love bikes.”