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At 33, Buy My Bikes Still Pedaling Along

Store owner Jim Curwood is known for his zany TV ads, but his charity efforts have made him and his shop a San Juan mainstay.

Locals have been aware of Jim Curwood for quite some time. The easy-talking, self-professed surf junkie with sun-splashed shoulder-length hair and a blond soul patch has never shied away from attention.

Curwood, a 50-something father of twin 16-year-olds, is the longtime owner of . The store celebrated its 33rd anniversary last month.

Located on Camino Capistrano, it's one of the city's few remaining privately owned establishments.

Curwood earned quasi-celebrity status in San Juan with his entertaining television commercials, which date back to the 1980s and include comical one-liners and Curwood slipping into a bee costume.

“If you grew up around here, you’ve seen the commercials,” said Josh Kang of Rancho Santa Margarita. “Even if you don’t ride bikes, you’ve probably heard of Buy My Bikes.”

But the store owner’s relationship with the community runs much deeper than silly 30-second TV spots.

Born in Scotland, Curwood moved to Los Angeles as a toddler. His family often visited Mission San Juan Capistrano and he decided as a youngster that the combination of surfing and community would eventually draw him to the town for good.

“As a kid, I told my parents that I would end up moving here,” he said.

Sure enough, Curwood made the move in 1977 and opened Buy My Bikes a year later. The shop's first six years were a struggle, he said. But the 1984 Summer Olympics provided Buy My Bikes with its first big push and best month of sales.

“Fortunately, times have changed,” Curwood said. “We can do that kind of business on a holiday weekend now.”

Veteran establishments have become few and far between in the area lately, with private owners often giving way to corporate chains. Although many of the chains offer the same goods as their predecessors, it isn’t easy to duplicate the atmosphere and attitude that accompanies a mom-and-pop joint.

“Time has managed to make us a pillar of the community,” Curwood said.

Curwood is also known for philanthropic efforts.

The store routinely raffles off bikes at local charity events. This summer, Curwood has already donated two bikes to the Historical Society barbecue and San Juan’s Fourth of July festivities.

And he plans to donate more at San Juan Summer Nights, held on the third Wednesday of every month of the season through September.

"We've survived by giving back to the community," Curwood said. “I love this area and people around here have been very kind to me. They’re open-minded folks that are more welcoming than those you might find elsewhere.”

Curwood undoubtedly drums up business through exposure at community activities. However, he said he believes it’s just part of his duty as a long-term resident and business owner.

“A lot of people think that if you give, you’re supposed to get something back in return,” Curwood said. “That’s a wrong frame of mind. I really do enjoy seeing someone’s face light up when we hook them up with a new bike.”

Buy My Bikes will celebrate its 33-and-1/3 birthday Sept. 15 with a DJ party. Everyone is welcome, Curwood said, as long as they bring a record album with them.

Student July 09, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Curwood is a good guy. We need more like him....
Mamie July 09, 2011 at 08:59 PM
Jim, not only does my husband have more bikes than I have shoes - OK, that might be stretching it a bit...OK, a lot, but he also has enough LPs for all day play without replaying the same "record album" twice. And, yes he has the "turnable" as well.
Steve Behmerwohld July 09, 2011 at 11:28 PM
I have known Jim and have been a customer of his for 25 years. As fun as his commercials are, I'm guessing most of his business is due to referrals from satisfied customers. I don't know of any business (in or outside of San Juan) that offers the quality of customer service that Jim, Kenny, Carl, Travis and all the guys do at BUY MY BIKES!!!
kathy holman July 10, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Just finished participating in the SJC Relay for Life and as always Jim donated a beautiful bike for the raffle. I've bought bikes for the whole family at "Buy my Bikes" and recommend the shop to all my friends and family. I's a real "one stop shop" for all your bicycle needs.
Matt Gaffney July 11, 2011 at 06:34 PM
I've known Jim since he opened up in my building. I've bought all my bikes from him & there hasn't been a cause he hasn't donated a bike to. It's too bad the city chose to jerk around a long time giving business like his. His problems over signage are epic & show the ineptitude of staff at it's finest.
Mamie July 11, 2011 at 07:08 PM
I have certainly had my share of dealings with "inept" city staff. They can drive a "non-drinking" person like me to drink. HOWEVER, I am hopeful our new City Manager will help to change this. Coming from 37 years of working in the private sector, with almost half of those as a private business owner, I have no tolerance for "inept" staff, or anyone with a no can do, I don't know, or not my job mentality. Unless there is a schedule conflict, I am sure Adam and I will be at the 33 1/2 Birthday Party. Yes, Adam will bring his record albums. :-)

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