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Electric bike center arrives in Groton

Groton — The owner of a new electric bike shop in Groton envisions it as not only a place to purchase e-bikes, but as a community center with opportunities for people to take historic, scenic and cultural tours of the area.

Paul Ward, the principal of Pedego Electric Bikes Groton, which recently opened on a portion of the Groton Family Farm property on Fort Hill Road, said he is incorporating the historic nature of the property and the Burrows family, as well as the local area, into the new e-bike center with exhibits and tours.

"The goal is to create a vibrant community recreational activity associated with this landmark property, that both locals and visitors alike can be proud of," said Ward.

The center is in the process of a "soft opening" in phases, as restoration efforts are completed, with plans to be fully operational with touring activities by the end of April, weather permitting, he said. The vast majority of the interior restoration is complete, while outdoor projects are in the works. Once complete, the property is expected to be transformed into a landmark site that attracts attention as people pass by the center on Fort Hill Road, he said.

Warren Burrows, whose family has owned the Groton Family Farm for generations, said his mission for the overall property is to create something that is good for the town, while still housing some sort of commercial enterprise. The farm operation on the property stopped when Burrows moved to the West Coast in 2016.

Burrows said the opening of a bike center in a 1890 structure the family has rented out for years for small business use fits in with the general framework of creating something that people can enjoy on the entire property.

"I'm very happy about it," said Burrows. "I'm very pleased that we ran into each other, and I'm looking forward to a good situation."

Burrows said the future of the rest of the farm property is "still an open book." The Groton Family Farm property includes a garden area, where regenerative agriculture is practiced, a farmhouse and a barn, where Burrows' great-grandfather boarded horses for the racetrack that once stood down the road where Poquonnock Plains Park is now.

Ward said he feels honored to help the Burrows family reinvigorate the property, also a goal of the town's, and he like to think of the e-bike center as an initial phase in the long-term plan for some kind of community use on the overall property.

Finding Groton Family Farm

Ward, a career accountant, said he was looking to get involved in a new activity for his retirement when he happened to stumble across electric bikes.

"I had never ridden electric bikes, and I rode one for the first time last summer and I was amazed by the excitement in riding it," he said.

Electric bike sales have been growing, partly due to interest in electric bikes during the pandemic and then also because a major demographic for electric bikes is the 50 to 70 age group, which is a growing demographic in the country, he said.

He then learned that Pedego Electric Bikes was recruiting new store owners throughout the United States. After talking to the company and test-riding the bikes he signed a dealership agreement to open a store and exclusively market their products, he said.

All that was left was to find a location, and he just happened to stumble across the Groton Family Farm property as a potential site, he said. Ward, a history buff, was intrigued by the site's location and the Burrows' deep roots in the area.

"The more I looked at it I just thought it would be perfect because of the location close to the state parks and also the riding areas," he said, "and then as I got into the property I find out this vast history of the Burrows family which intrigued me even more because I consider myself an amateur historian, and I was just fascinated by the family history."

In addition to selling electric bikes, Ward said a big focus will be on touring activities because Groton is so rich in historic, scenic, and cultural areas.

"It's just a real gem for touring," he said.

He plans to have about 25 touring bikes that will be available on a reservation basis for people to go on a self-guided tour and there also will be guided tours into Bluff Point State Park and Haley Farm State Park, noting that the bikes are only allowed on the gravel roads in the parks.

People can then connect to areas of Groton Long Point and Noank and riding up into Mystic.

They could also head to locations in the City of Groton, such as Avery Point and Eastern Point Beach and Fort Griswold, he said.

The bike center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Sunday, but will move later this spring, once the weather improves, to 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday-Sunday.

k.drelich@theday.com

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