More from Morrison Road:
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- In an area with no full-service grocer, this nonprofit is stepping in
- Taste the Ojos de buey at Contreras Market, a Westwood panaderia
- Meet Mujeres Emprendedoras, the women building defenses against displacement
- A day at the Denver Indian Center, a place of support for its community’s traumas
- COVID closed his eatery, so he opened a rock ‘n’ roll ice cream shop on Morrison Rd.
- Why is Morrison Rd. diagonal?
- The guys at Boogie Down got this Denverite reporter buzzed
- In the face of massive change in Denver, Morrison Road might have a secret weapon: Its art and feel
In between the mechanics and tire shops of Morrison Road, lies a spot selling one of Denver’s favorite means of transportation: bikes.
It’s One Stop Bike Shop to be exact.
If the line of what has to be about 50 adults’ bikes on one side of the entrance and 50 children’s bikes on the other side isn’t an indicator that this spot is truly a one-stop shop, just head inside the bike haven, smell the rubber and look around.
Rims and tires hang from the ceiling, alongside wire metal art sculptures of frogs and flowers, Broncos flags galore, bright little toy bikes with baby dolls, skeletons and of course used and new bikes.
The chaotically organized wonderland is owned by Westwood native Thomas Padilla who, clad in a mechanic’s shirt and black high-top chucks, has sold, fixed and customized bikes for the past 30 years on Morrison.
“I was born and raised on Hazel and Center, right by the Taco House,” Padilla said. “I lived all over the neighborhood near Kentucky, by King Soopers. It’s like a culture… being from here. I like watching the changes, some of them anyways.”
Padilla enthusiastically mentions the vibrant murals plastered on storefronts along Morrison, including his own.
Fixing a bike is like artwork to Padilla. He started working on bikes in high school along with his five older brothers. Once Padilla graduated — Lincoln High, by the way — he started working in sanitation on a garbage truck, where he’d pick up thrown out bikes along the way.
“I’d find a bike one day and the next day I’d find another one with a part I needed,” Padilla said. “Once my friends on the other crews found out I liked bikes, they started bringing me some. I’d say, Hey buy me a six-pack on pay day, I’ll fix the bike. I started doing auctions and yard sales, sooner or later I had to get a shop. My yard was so full.”
So around 1992, Padilla believes, he opened up One Stop with one of his brothers, adding to the landscape of Morrison.
Padilla said there used to be another shop on the block that closed a while back but sometimes people still come in thinking it’s the other shop.
Now the kids in the photos lining One Stop’s wall have come back to shop with their own kids, Padilla said.
“This kid came in here one day, about a year ago, said, ‘You know that’s me on the wall right there,'” Padilla said. “I go ‘Really?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, that’s me. You gave me a bike when I was little.’ And he thanked me. Made me feel good.”
See, Padilla doesn’t just fix bikes. Besides making wire art with scraps, he also gives back by teaching the local kids about bikes.
Padilla said he’s given away plenty of bikes to the kids and teens of Westwood. He loves kids. (He has seven — and eight grandkids.) He’ll show them one time how to put air in the tire and afterwards, if they need more, they have to do it themselves.
“How else are they going to learn,” Padilla laughed.
He said he’s taught a few of them how to fix bikes and would have them work in the store after school to have something to do.
“Instead of wasting their thumbs away, playing games,” Padilla said.
Toby Montoya, Padilla’s godson and sometimes employee, can attest to Padilla’s generosity.
The two met at Our Lady of Victory about 10 years ago and Padilla was part of Montoya’s baptism.
Montoya said Padilla became another father-figure for him. His own father taught him about cars and Padilla taught him about bikes. Whenever he’s needed work, Montoya said Padilla has given him a job at the shop until he can get back on his feet.
“Giving back to the community is a large part of [Thomas’] drive,” Montoya said. “He wants to do something good for other people and that comes from our faith. Doing good things just because it’s something good to do. He loves people and everyone is his friend as long as you don’t do him wrong. He’s just sociable like that.”
Montoya said Padilla has received help in his life, through God, friends and family, so Padilla returns the favor when he can.
Padilla’s known all around the area for his personality and generosity, and that’s a part of his character, Montoya said. He’ll give away tubes here and there. Teach a kid to change a tire. Or spot a person a few bucks if they’re short. Sometimes they come back and sometimes they don’t but Padilla said that’s just part of life.
“We’re all sometimes down on hard times and we all need a little bit of help,” Montoya said. “Thomas isn’t there to just make money. He’s there because he loves what he does.”
Padilla’s humble about it, though. At first, he brushes off the compliments but as the conversation grows longer and he remembers 30 years of bikes, hardships, triumphs and smiles, he starts to agree with the sentiment.
“I’ve been here long enough,” Padilla laughed. “I spent a lot of years of my life, giving and caring. Helped a lot of kids. I’ve helped struggling families. I bring a smile. I try to always be positive. Maybe I am a legend.”
On a Wednesday afternoon, in between credit card transactions, Padilla turns an old metal gear into a flower. He said he could connect a stem and leaves to the base and turn it into a necklace.
A young man enters the shops.
“Hey, how you doing? I was around the neighborhood and wanted to stop by and give you that $10 I owe you from yesterday.”
Padilla says thank you and the two talk about a ride-along later that night.
“See, they come back,” Padilla laughed. “Every Wednesday, we go out and ride our bikes all night. Sometimes we don’t get home until 12:30 a.m. We ride all around downtown.”
Montoya said the group of bikers from all over Denver, even a guy living in Colorado Springs, have been gathering for years. They meet by Fishback Park.
“Man, sometimes I never believe how far I ride,” Padilla chuckled. “I’ve got an electric bike but I ride the whole time. I use the electric when I go up the hills. Ridings good for you. It keeps your mind in the right place.”