SKOWHEGAN — Retired fix-it man Hugh Breingan had planned to salvage, fix and give away about 80 bikes to area children last summer.

That was until a newspaper article in August about him and the donations started pouring in — including parts and tools from an entire bike shop in Waterville. By the end of the summer, Breingan, known locally as Tiny, had rescued, repaired and given away 112 bicycles — plus seven more for Christmas.

Now, said Breingan and Skowhegan physician Michael Lambke, who has offered to help him, the little bike shop in Breingan’s backyard could become a much bigger project.

“What we have been talking about is what’s called as a community bicycle shop,” Lambke said. “The idea is to try to figure out how we can open a shop that isn’t just run by one or two people as a job to sell and repair bicycles.

“We could broaden out the mission so it’s also a youth program where kids could come after school or in the summertime.”

Lambke and Breingan said children could learn to repair bikes and help run the shop and get a bike of their own.

“They’ll still be getting a free bike, but it will show them more responsibility,” Breingan said. “It makes me happy to do it for the kids; they get a big smile on their face. Come this spring, if kids want a bike they can come and tell me which one they want and then help me put the bike together.”

Breingan also was given about 40 vintage bikes dating back to the 1940s that he plans to bring back to life. He said they could be auctioned and the proceeds used to help run the community bike shop.

“It was getting so overwhelming,” said Breingan’s longtime girlfriend, Marylee Cluckey, who keeps a list of the first names of all the bike recipients in a little book. “This gentleman from Waterville gave him the parts — there was boxes and boxes of tires, tubes, brand new rims, reflectors, brake pads, sprockets, boxes of bearings, rolls of shifting cables and just everything you could think of — thousands of dollars worth.”

Lambke found a space to store many of the bikes and parts for the winter at the former Solon Manufacturing Co. building on Russell Road.

Building owner Joel Clement, a bicycle enthusiast himself, donated the storage space for the winter, which might also serve as the bike shop later on.

“We’ve got 100 some odd bikes down there,” Breingan said of the building. “I’ve got another 25 to 30 out back here and my cellar’s full of parts — what we need is a place we can put them all. People have dropped them off all summer long.”

Breingan said he started collecting scrap bicycles in 2010 when he noticed some had been thrown away at the town transfer station. He refurbished 25 or 30 that year, he said.

“I’ve got people that save these bikes for me — one is the Skowhegan landfill and Skowhegan metal recycling off of Waye Street,” Breingan said in an interview in August. “We’ve given some to day-care centers. We brought bikes to the homeless shelter at the Trinity church and to every kid in the neighborhood.”

Lambke said he wants to organize a meeting soon for area residents interested in helping with the community bicycle shop, though a date has not yet been set.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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