There were times Rory Schell feared Val's Cyclery would never be able to return to the flooded location at the intersection of Third Street Southeast and Central Avenue it has occupied in Minot for 51 years. With the hard work of family and friends, however, the venerable bicycle shop is slowly but surely returning to normal now that the waters of the Souris River have receded.
Rory Schell, who along with his brother Rocky Schell own Val's Cyclery, said during the flood they were running the business out of their pickups and in Rocky's garage. In the days leading up to the final evacuation, they had desperately moved as much equipment as they could to wherever there was room. When it was all said and done, they had equipment and parts in nine different locations around Minot.
"We had North Hill, South Hill, every direction I think," Rory Schell said. "Our bike shop was scattered all around."
Family from all over the country help rebuild Val’s Cyclery Tuesday afternoon. From left, in front, are Jordan Markell of New York, Josh Schell, Rocky Schell, Carson Schell, Rory Schell, Janelle Schell, and Sydnie Schell. In the back on the right is Bill Guess, of Mobile, Ala.
Josh Schell, left, and Bill Guess, right, unload a bike from a trailer in front of Val’s Cyclery Tuesday afternoon while Carson Schell walks back inside the trailer to get another bike.
While they weren't able to do much business during the flood, Schell said they were able to make some transactions here and there. It often involved taking bikes to customers and hoping it was what they wanted. This was especially difficult during the early stages of the flood when the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass was the only open north-south conduit through Minot.
"We had a person we wanted to show a bike on the south side of town, so it took me 3 1/2 hours to get there (the storage location), get the bike, and then bring it back so they could see it," Schell said. "And hopefully it's the right color or the right style. It was difficult, it was really hard at first. It got better as they opened up a few more roads, it got a little easier."
Val's also has a sharpening service for tools such as chainsaws and saw blades. Unfortunately, most of that equipment was lost in the flood, so the sharpening service was virtually nonexistent during the evacuation.
Lowe's Garden Center reopens
Lowe's Floral and Garden Center might have been knocked down by the flood, but it's definitely not out.
James Lowe, manager of the floral division, said the garden center portion of the business opened Monday even as the floral center is still in the middle of rebuilding.
The nursery department is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
"Their office was the quickest to clean up," Lowe said. "They don't have Sheetrock yet, but they have a pretty good selection of chemicals, garden art, and trees, shrubs, perennial plants. So they're up and running."
The floral shop is much larger than the garden center, so it will take longer to rebuild. Lowe is hoping by next week they will be able to take orders over the telephone and on the Web site, but he isn't expecting it to be open to walk-in traffic until around Thanksgiving or Christmas.
"We will rebuild and we'll come back out of this," Lowe said. "My grandparents rebuilt after the 1969 flood, so we'll for sure rebuild after this one."
"This is our 82nd year in business, and we'll darn well make it to 100," he added.
As the waters finally receded, Schell spent quite a bit of time at the Minot Police Department asking to get back into his business. He was time and again told the water was still too high, but eventually was able to get back in and survey the damage.
The entire basement had been flooded and water had risen 36 inches above the main floor. The work of tearing out all the water-damaged portions of the building began in earnest. The main power box for the business was relocated from the basement to the main floor so at least the upper level had power.
The basement was completely gutted, while the burst floor on the main level had to be replaced. Mold infected all the cabinets, pegboard, showcases and even the ceiling tiles, meaning every bit of it had to be ripped out. The basement was eventually dried to the point where bikes could safely be stored there again. There was a lot of work to do, and fortunately there were a lot of volunteers to do it.
On Tuesday afternoon some of the people hauling bikes back into the store included Rory and his wife, Janelle, their 14-year-old son Carson and 18-year-old daughter Sydnie, Rocky and his son Josh, as well as Jordan Markell, Rory's nephew from New York, and Bill Guess, Rory's brother-in-law from Mobile, Ala.
That doesn't even include the friends and customers who came in from all over the region to help, either.
"We had tons of great volunteers. I can't name them all, but they know who they are," Schell said. "They're from Fessenden, Harvey, Rugby, Powers Lake, those areas and the Minot area. I tell you, they came in and they just went to bat for us."
Even when the cleaning firm they hired was working, Schell and everyone else pitched in right alongside the professionals and knocked about three days off the initial cleanup job.
"I know we hired somebody, but still, they couldn't do it alone," Schell said. "We wanted to get in there, we just wanted to get in there."
Schell said it would have been impossible to tear out the damaged structure of the building and start piecing it back together without the help of all those people.
After receiving all that assistance, Schell still feels guilty about not being able to help many of his friends who came back to homes ravaged by the flood.
"I just feel bad (because) I know so many people that were displaced because of the flood. I know customers and friends, and I wanted to go help them," Schell said. "I'm always helping people, and my wife and I wanted to help them so bad but our hands were so tied."
They were finally able to open the store on Monday, and are doing business even as the inventory and tools scattered around Minot are slowly being brought back. Phone service has been restored, and Schell is hopeful all the bikes will be back in the store by the middle of the week.
Considering many of the areas around Val's Cyclery don't yet have power - the streetlights weren't even on as of Tuesday afternoon - Schell feels extremely lucky to be back in business.
Although it might not look quite the same, Val's Cyclery is fully up and running. Even the sharpening service is full steam ahead.
"The thing is, it's not going to be pretty for a while. We're going to have no floor coverings probably for a while and the ceiling tiles will be out for a while," Schell said. "But when January, February comes and it's a little slower, we'll see how much money we have to borrow and we'll do a little remodeling here and there. We'll come back strong. We've been here 51 years."
Above all Schell is thankful to the customers for being so wonderful during the entire ordeal. He mentioned one customer who drove 116 miles to find Val's Cyclery in the middle of rebuilding. Rather than force the issue or go someplace else, the son told his father they could come back another day because he wanted a bike from Val's. Another customer bought four bikes Monday night when most of them were still being stored off-site.
"It's great, the people that appreciate you working hard," Schell said. "It's their support that keeps us going. They're just wonderful."