A small portion of the hundreds upon hundreds of bikes available at Second Chance Bicycle Shop, located in the East bank Shopping Center. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Senitnel Colorado
Ernie Clark is the founder and owner of Second Chance Bicycle Shop. The bike shop is located in the East Bank Shopping Center. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Senitnel Colorado
Ernie Clark is the founder and owner of Second Chance Bicycle Shop. The bike shop is located in the East Bank Shopping Center. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Senitnel Colorado

AURORA | A cyclery fixing up free bikes for children and other Aurorans in need may reach the end of the road this fall if it can’t find a new home before the start of a redevelopment project.

Ernie Clark and Second Chance Bicycle Shop have built a legacy on helping students get to school on time and giving Aurorans of modest means a reliable set of wheels for work.

Their storefront in the East Bank Shopping Center is packed wall-to-wall with bicycles, which Clark refurbishes with a team of volunteers. But big changes are in store for East Bank, part of which is being torn down and replaced with apartments.

Despite assurances that they would help Clark find a new location, the redevelopment team has so far not been able to find another place for the former New Jersey cop and his shop.

That leaves Clark’s one-of-a-kind cyclery and its annual Christmas giveaway of bikes for Aurora’s needy students in a precarious spot, with Clark saying they’ll need to find a new location by October to keep putting the rubber on the road.

“If not, there’s no way we can keep going,” Clark said. “It’s sad to say we can’t do it, but we can’t do it.”

It won’t be Clark’s first experience moving his nonprofit and its vast inventory of bikes, though he worries it will be their last if they can’t find another space in time.

The scrappy nonprofit started more than 15 years ago in a friend’s one-car garage. It’s since bounced back and forth between several spots across the city. Along the way, leaders from City Hall to the White House in Washington, D.C. have sung Ernie’s praises, celebrating his selfless endeavor to get bicycles in the hands of those who need them most.

“It breaks my heart, you know? He helps so many kids,” said Tausha Wells of Pet Palace, who is Clark’s neighbor in the shopping center. “I know he’s really been trying to find a place. It’s good work he does in the community.”

The redevelopment of East Bank has put Wells in an awkward position, with property owner Kimco offering her a future in the space that Second Chance has occupied rent-free for four years. But until Clark moves, Kimco won’t be able to undertake planned renovations, meaning Wells can’t relocate her own business.

“We haven’t gotten a timeline for when that’s going to happen,” Wells said. “And we feel bad taking over his space, frankly.”

Marcus Pachner, a lobbyist and representative of the redevelopment team, told Aurora’s City Council in March that saving Second Chance was a “labor of love,” calling Clark “a remarkable man” providing “a remarkable community asset.”

“They’re not just a tenant,” Pachner said of Second Chance in March. “They are a part of the community.”

He told the council that the team was “working to pay off” outstanding utility bills owed by Second Chance and that Kimco and Evergreen Development Company had set aside $20,000 to help Clark move.

“We are looking at other sites to find him a location, and I am personally working with other corporations to support this remarkable thing,” Pachner told the group.

Three months later, that new location has failed to materialize. Pachner told The Sentinel it hasn’t been for lack of trying — he said his team has held around five planning meetings to discuss the future of Second Chance, and that they’re continuing to explore options with their business contacts.

“We just want Ernie to have his own destiny in front of him,” Pachner said. “Nobody has promised that we’ll find a space. But we’re all committed to trying to find a space to move Second Chance.”

As it has in the past, the city has also been on the lookout for ways to help Clark, but city spokesman Ryan Luby said in an email that they have yet to find commercial property owners willing to offer up free space. 

“However, simultaneously, the city has reached out to other nonprofit organizations that might be willing to support Mr. Clark in different ways, and more information will be available at a future time should an arrangement develop,” Luby wrote. “We share in the community’s desire to support Second Chance Bicycle Shop and we are eager to help Mr. Clark find a new home for his shop to the extent that we are able.”

Clark expressed frustration with the redevelopment team, who he described as aloof and unavailable, despite Pachner’s insistence that he communicates with Clark at least twice a month.

Clark also said he was anxious to see Kimco and Evergreen deliver on its promise of $20,000 to defray moving costs, after it took them months to pay a water bill they had promised to take care of. 

“​​I don’t know anything about what’s going on,” Clark said. “They say they’re going to do this, and they’re going to do that, but they don’t do nothing.”

“I think he’d love to have even more frequent updates,” Pachner later said, adding that he wants to create a “standing meeting” with Clark so the two can have a regular time to catch up. “I think it’s fair that Ernie will be anxious during this time. But everyone is committed to helping Ernie.”

Pachner and Tina Hippeli of Evergreen said the $20,000 has been budgeted as part of the redevelopment and will be available once Clark is ready to move.

They acknowledged that, ultimately, the future of Second Chance may rest in the hands of a third-party benefactor who has yet to learn about Clark’s situation, and said they were committed to spreading awareness in hopes that someone with space to lend will step up.

Pachner suggested a storefront or even a warehouse space of up to 5,000 square feet would be able to accommodate Second Chance and its inventory of bicycles. Clark said he’s open to any and all offers.

The Second Chance founder said he had contacted the mayor’s office and warned that, if he can’t find space by October, he may give up on the shop.

“But I don’t want to give it up,” Clark said.

Second Chance Bicycle Shop is located currently at 4122 South Parker Road, and anyone interested in helping Clark — with an offer of space, volunteer help or monetary donations — can contact him at 720-270-5731.

3 replies on “LAST CHANCE: Aurora’s nonprofit cyclery desperately searching for new digs”

  1. I wonder if a national news story might bring results? This man is amazing and deserves more help.

  2. Surely with all the industrial complexes in NE Aurora there must be someone with unutilzed space that could accomodate this organization. I would offer my double car detached garage but i don’t think 400 sq. ft. is going to help much.

  3. It would appear that the main stumbling block is the FREE 5000 sq ft of space. That’s a tough one for sure. Again. I think that some of the faith based organizations with their property should think about helping. I have taken bikes over there but I don’t know his business model. If he’s paying for all the repairs himself and then giving the bikes away? Or is it like ARC/GOODWILL/SALVATION ARMY and the inventory is free. Then he sells bikes to pay expenses. The old CINEMA GRILL (now HEAVENLY SOUL FOOD) STANDS EMPTY. Perhaps with a GO FUN ME account….$$ could be raised to make it ‘free’ for his organization for say, 5 years? Just a thought.

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