The Block and Valley Bike Shop Looking to Create One of a Kind Local Attraction

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT) – An impressive project is underway in southern Clarion County where a new attraction is hoping to bring more attention to our area.

Rhett Atwood is the man behind The Block and Valley Bike Shop, an ambitious set of new businesses located at 415 Arch Street in New Bethlehem.

Atwood grew up in the Cook Forest area. When he was young, art was his passion, and he dreamed of being a tattoo artist, living in California, and having his own shop. He brought those dreams to life in adulthood, tattooing for eleven years and running his own studio in California for seven. However, he had other passions he wanted to pursue as well.

“I take art to all aspects of my life,” Atwood told exploreJeffersonpa.com. “Photography – I make films, graphic design, building custom fish tanks, and of course riding BMX.”

Atwood explained that it was his brother’s influence that first piqued his interest in BMX and freestyle motocross.

“I rode BMX as a child, but with my brother being older and more skilled on a bike, I took to filming and photography a lot. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I truly found my niche in BMX.”

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Atwood noted that juggling multiple passions and finding time to feed them all has always been a battle for him, so after his years of progressing as an artist, he found less and less time for getting out and riding.

“That is why after many love-filled and successful years tattooing, I decided to give my second love 100% of my attention,” explained Atwood.

“Having a place to ride that we could call our own has been something so many, myself included, have wanted and needed for so long. The reason this all came to be in New Bethlehem solely comes down to the location and fate.”

Atwood heard about the building through a friend and contacted the owner with his idea for the bike shop and bike park.

“It seemed too good to be true when Sandra (Mateer) expressed to me her longtime dream of putting a bike shop in her facility so that users of the trail could be taken care of without having to leave New Bethlehem.”

While indoor bike parks are not common in our area, one of the things that will make The Block truly unique is its 24-hour operation.

“The idea for the bike park being 24 hours stems from knowing what it’s like to be so far away from a place to ride, finding time after work or after your kids are out of school, between homework and dinner. Whether you’re an adult or a child finding the time to ride becomes more and more difficult, so for members, we will offer 24-hour access.”

The Block will also offer season passes, weekend passes, and day passes, as well as mentors to provide lessons and classes for anyone looking to improve their skills on the trail, in the park, or even on the creek, as they will also be offering kayak rentals.

“We also plan to implement a full outdoor track right in front of our location, which runs right along the Redbank Valley Trail and will be open to the public from dawn to dusk. This will give so much more attention to the already beautiful trail.”

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According to Atwood, the ultimate goal is to draw more people to the region.

“These people will be shopping at our local grocery stores, eating at restaurants, staying at our local bed and breakfast, and, of course, utilizing our bike shop and indoor facility.”

“What we are doing is will be more like a family cycling center than just a skate or bike park. In our fleet of rentals, we plan to offer recumbent bikes and adaptive bikes for special needs, as well as a wide range of styles and sizes for all ages, which will allow anyone coming in purchasing a bike to demo that bike and make sure it’s the right fit. They will be able to test it out on the trail before purchasing, and anyone who is not in the position to buy a bike is welcome to rent one, seven days per week.

“We also plan to offer shuttle service for anyone using our bikes and kayaks, and we plan to have frequent events involving members of the community and local businesses. That way every bit that goes into this goes back into the town.”

The bike shop and indoor park are still not the only things Atwood has planned. In the second floor of the building, they will be installing a full art gallery for both local and traveling artists and crafters to display and sell their art.

“I think this will be a big hit for a lot of people that are traveling from the city to our town, not only to ride the trail, boat, or ride in the park. The bicycle community is flooded with artists and art enthusiasts, and I truly think it will go hand-in-hand with what we’re doing.”

“We plan to work with everybody we can to help promote the town. My goal is to put Clarion County on the map. Our 24-hour facility will only be the second one to exist in the entire world, and the other has no trail and no beautiful humble town to ride through. We will be the only ones in the world to have the park, the shop, the trail, and the creek all within arms reach like we do.”

The Trail at The Block

The ambitious project still doesn’t end there. Atwood also plans to also offer photography hikes and rides, taking entire groups out on the trail for wildlife and nature photography and will have cameras available to rent as well as workshops to teach people how to use them.

“I believe it will be a non-stop steady flow of new customers and new opportunities for businesses to flourish.

“I’ve already received overwhelming calls asking when we open, what the hotel and sleeping options are, calls from vans of people ready to load up and come stay at our B and B’s to ride the trail and the park and the creek.”

With several events at The Block in preparation for opening already under his belt, Atwood just has one last hurdle to cross before he can have the facility ready for its grand opening: more funding.

“We still need help with some of the initial start-up money. We are taking on sponsors, and for anyone who wants to help us reach our goal, we will be doing massive amounts of advertising and outreach for all those who contribute.”

For businesses interested in sponsorship, Atwood is offering a range of options from video productions to signage on the trail or in the bike park or even sponsored fix-it stations.

“We can offer so much,” he noted.

They are hoping to collect the last of the necessary funds soon, as they originally hoped to open by May 1.

“Serious riders have already bought a bike in April, and the average user buys her bike in May. Then, for the next couple months until about October, servicing is a full-time gig. If we miss this May opening, people are not gonna be buying their bikes from us, and when you buy a bike, you typically get it serviced where you bought the bike, so we can’t afford to miss this window.”

For those interested in finding out more about Atwood’s growing project, or those interested in a sponsorship, check out the Facebook pages for The Block and Valley Bike Shop.

“Once we are open for business, we plan to implement tons of opportunities for everyone to get involved, ways for businesses to bring in new customers, ways for our county to bring in new enthusiasm, and energy to our area.”

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