Apollo Cycles rides into downtown Norwich
Norwich — When people say they “fell into” their career, it’s supposed to be a figurative expression — but that actually happened for Apollo Ziembroski, owner of Apollo Cycles.
The shop will be celebrating its grand opening next Friday, Aug. 2, at its 48 Franklin St. location downtown.
As a 16-year-old Fitch High School student living in Stonington, Ziembroski rode his mountain bike to school every day, no matter the weather. One morning, he was struck — "nicked," as he put it — by a school bus, and down he and the bike went.
He wasn’t injured but his new $1,200 mountain bike, which he got as a present for his 16th birthday, was banged up. He took it to Mystic Cycle Center for repair.
“You’re going to need a job to pay for this,” the owner told him. The repair would cost $200 to $300.
“Yeah,” Ziembroski recalled responding. “I need a job here.”
He started the next Monday, washing bicycles. He stayed and worked full-time at the shop after graduating from Fitch in 2010 and rode daily to Three Rivers Community College. He rode most weekends to visit his girlfriend at the University of Connecticut in Storrs and remembers well riding down the long, steep Spring Hill on Route 195 in 5-degree weather.
At age 20, the shop sent Ziembroski to Barnett’s Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs.
Three years ago, when he was 23, someone told him there was a bike shop in Danielson for sale. Ziembroski didn’t think he had a chance to buy a bike shop with about $200 in the bank. But the owner allowed him to rent Danielson Adventure Sports and pay as he went. So Ziembroski was in business. Eventually, he changed the name of the shop to Apollo Cycles.
Ziembroski came to another turn in the road this past December. At the same time as his lease in Danielson was running out and an adjacent brewery wanted to expand into the space, Jill Fritzsche, vice president at the Norwich Community Development Corp., had “bicycle shop” on her list of businesses the agency hoped to attract to downtown Norwich. She called Ziembroski.
“Jill found me,” Ziembroski said Friday over the din of construction in the new bicycle service section at the new shop at 48 Franklin St. “She hunted me down. I wouldn’t have moved without (NCDC). They have been so helpful.”
NCDC President Robert Mills said Ziembroski considered various locations in downtown, and one other spot fell through. In the meantime, he moved his bikes and accessories temporarily into space at 48 Franklin St., in the same building as NCDC’s Foundry 66 shared workspace facility. Ziembroski qualified for the downtown revitalization program, receiving a $55,000 business loan to get set up and purchase inventory.
“He’s happy. We’re happy,” Mills said. “I love seeing bikes on the street. We’ll be looking for some more creative businesses like that to come to downtown.”
During the city’s Cape Verdean Festival in early June, Ziembroski opened the doors, with boxes all over. He was a bit more organized for the Juneteenth celebration on the same block two weeks later.
“It’s been a lot of fun moving from Killingly,” Ziembroski said. “It’s been awesome for me. I did well over 60 percent over my best June ever, and I was only open for part of June.”
The Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 2, at the shop, with the recently opened Café Otis providing refreshments. The event is free and open to the public.
Apollo Cycles sells bicycles of all types, from small children’s sizes to adult mountain and road bikes to electric bikes and BMX “trick bikes.” Accessories range from helmets to clothing, protective gear, tires, pumps and lights.
The left side of the shop is for sales and displays, and the right side will be for service. Customers already are dropping off bikes to be repaired.
Anyone who buys a bicycle from Apollo Cycles will receive lifetime free routine service, tune-ups and adjustments. Ziembroski hopes to hire a full-time bike mechanic next year.
“My big thing is service,” he said. “I just want to keep people riding.”
Ziembroski just started hosting evening group ride events. These are fun, noncompetitive rides, he stressed, with his promotional flier stating: “If you want to race, stay home.”
On Mondays, the group will meet at 6 p.m. at Moween State Park, 166 Camp Moween Road, Lebanon, for an 8-mile mountain bike ride through the park. On Thursdays, a road ride group will meet at Apollo Cycles for a 20-mile loop ride along routes 97, 14 and 138 through Norwich, Sprague, Canterbury and Lisbon. Participation is free, and the rides will be followed by casual get-togethers, either at a local restaurant or with a barbecue.
Ziembroski is considering other ride events to encourage people to ride both for outings and as a routine activity.
“The community down here has been so well-receiving, so welcoming,” he said.
If you go
Apollo Cycles at 48 Franklin St., Norwich, sells bicycles, accessories, helmets and clothing, and services bicycles. The hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday thrugh Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
What: A ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the grand opening will be held at 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 2.
Evening rides: Mondays, 6 p.m., Moween State Park, 166 Camp Moween Road, Lebanon. Road ride Thursdays, 6 p.m., meet at Apollo Cycles.
Phone: (860) 774-6010.
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