Originally from conservative northern Ohio and growing up in Amish and Mennonite communities, Josh and Terri Schlabach have a resounding love for community no matter where they go. They believe that even though they stepped away from some of the more strict rules of their upbringings, community is a huge part of living the human experience—from mission trips in Asia, family trips to Germany, being business owners in Clinton County, and supporting our city in any way they can.
While taking one of their several weekly walks, Josh and Terri saw the vacant lot right off the bike trail on North Mulberry Street and discussed Wilmington’s need for more housing in the city. “How nice would it be to have condos or homes in this location that open right on to the bike trail,” is where their conversation drifted. For months they chewed on this, waiting to see if someone would scoop up this rich real estate opportunity. When nobody did, the Schlabach’s decided to put an offer in themselves to “just see what happens”, and suddenly they had the space with the idea of building 6 condo units.
Construction did not begin immediately however, they decided that their best course of action would be to sell potential buyers the idea of beautiful two story condos with walk out access to the trails. But as Josh said, “I think we would sell them if we built them, but I didn’t want to take that risk upfront,” and while they had one interested buyer and lots local enthusiasm, they decided to put it on the back burner for another idea. ‘Wheelies on Mulberry’ would be a multi-use space, housing a bike shop, outdoor recreational area, and locally run cafe. They modeled their new vision after bike cafes seen on a family trip to Germany. “It’s a pretty popular concept in Europe to have a bike shop and cafe together, and it works there,” said Josh when talking about the inspiration for the space. They also both mentioned Wilmington’s lack of access to bike repair shops or the ability to purchase quality bikes without having to drive to Xenia, Dayton, or Cincinnati. They want to offer a “step-up” to what you would find at Walmart, but still offer affordable bicycles and somewhere local to get service when needed.
The Schlabach’s vision for Wheelies is that locals, tourists, and seniors will be able to come with their bikes, or rent bikes there, for a nice time on the trail. People will also be able to meet-up for a bite to eat or pick-up something to drink at ‘Trail Haus’, the new cafe space opening there and ran by Jennifer Purkey and Brad Hayes of Kava Haus. The Schlabach’s hope Wheelies will help build community while also improving health.
The Schlabach’s have partnered with Cycling Without Age, an international non-profit that offers Trishaw rides for seniors and the differently-abled to help include them in community and nature. They also discussed offering different group activities, such as meet-ups with mothers for kids, and adult runners to run together. One things Terri hops to do is break the stigma that our trails are not safe. As someone who uses the trails multiple times a day, she says, “my perception is that I’m not less safe on the trails than I am on the street in Wilmington.”
You can follow the progress of Wheelies on their Facebook page. As of now, their plan is to open, along with Trail Haus, beginning of April.