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Friday, December 04, 2009

White Pickups, Conversations: Tim Petro


Hi, I’m Tim Petro, proprietor of Town and Trail Bikes. Or was. Age 29 as of February. I’m told the family name was originally “Petrolakis,” when my grandfather came with his parents from Greece. His dad shortened it to make it less foreign-sounding. He married an Irish woman, that’s where I got all the red hair from. Is this the kind of stuff you want?

Sure. What possessed you to run a bike shop?

Well, it was really a dream of mine since I was like 12. We lived outside of Chicago back then, and my parents bought me a mountain bike from a yard sale. It needed a lot of adjustment, so I grabbed some of my dad’s tools and started fiddling until I had it mostly right. Then I rode to the library and found a book about bicycle repair, and went back and got it really right. Soon after that, one of the neighbor kids had a problem with his brakes and I got them adjusted. It sort of snowballed after that. Most of the neighbor kids wound up owing me favors, but I got cash for jobs that required parts. I bought another cheap bike at a yard sale so I could practice adjusting spokes, and that paid off pretty well.

By next summer, I was going around buying old bikes, fixing them up, and selling them for a profit. It was pretty good money for a young teen. My mom was an accountant, so she showed me how to keep a set of books and helped me open a bank account. I paid myself a salary, bought my own tools, and Dad cleared some storage space so I had a place to work. At the end of the year, I gave three or four good bikes to a local charity so poor kids could have a good Christmas present — they were surprised that “PetroVelo” was a kid!

After a couple of years, I got hired on by a local shop as a mechanic — Dad said they did it to eliminate some of their competition, and looking back he might not have been joking. But I learned a lot, and even steady minimum wage was better money than I was making on my own. I got them to donate some used bikes to the charity, and offered to work on them on my own time, but they paid me anyway.

You grew up around Chicago? How did you end up in Georgia?

Dad’s job transferred down here. I was 17. It wasn’t as bad as I expected — out here in Gwinnett, it was just another suburban school. Everybody was a lot more car-crazy here, but there were a few cyclists too. I ended up at UGA, joined the cycling team, got a business degree, got a job, worked hard and saved most of my money for a few years. I opened Town and Trail in 2007, and hung on until 2008 when things really picked up in June and July. You remember how gas prices went through the roof? The Christmas season was bad, but that summer more than made up for it. That’s when I learned about peak oil. I figured if I could just hang on until the fuel shortages got seriously bad, I’d be set. An ill wind and all that, right?

I lived my dream for four years, and even a few days beyond The End of the World As We Know It. Lots of people never take that kind of chance. Whatever happens next, at least I’ll have had that.

You shot that looter, but you don’t seem like the gun type…

I met somebody. You know how that goes: I ended up moving downtown to be closer to her, which was fine since I worked downtown anyway. Not that I moved in with her — Rebecca wasn’t the “live-in” type. But there was a home invasion in my apartment not long after I moved in, so I bought the gun and took some lessons. Things didn’t work out between us in the end, but she was there for me when I opened Town & Trail and painted that mural… I put some polyurethane clear-coat over the plywood, so it might be there in the shop window for a long time.

So what do you think happened?

I know what happened: she wanted me to convert to Catholicism. I wouldn’t do it. Sure, I could have gone through the motions, but that wouldn’t have been right… we’d have been living a lie if we ended up getting married.

I meant with the drive-offs.

Oh. I don’t know if this is really what happened, but it seems right to me. Oil supplies were getting tight — you’ve noticed how gas prices have been inching up this year, past $3.50 and kept going? I think it was really starting to get through to people that we were really running out of oil, and so many people wished so hard to keep the motoring fantasy going forever that they got what they wanted. Be careful what you ask for, right?

Back to Episode 11…


  1. Interesting reasoning by Tim. Getting what you wish for.... Hmmmm.

    His is an interesting story too, about getting his bike shop.

    I love this story, FarF.

  2. Hi Cone… yeah, Tim's an interesting character. Nobody really knows what happened… sometimes, including me. ;-)

    Thanks for reading — next one is set to post tomorrow morning!

  3. Tim is Greek Orthodox, no doubt. ;-)

  4. Actually, Tim's grandfather was. His dad drifted away from the church in his early adult years and didn't raise his kids in any particular faith.


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