Television and radio ads for cigarettes were banned in America, Monty Python’s Flying Circus was making waves, Flintstones based Fruity Pebbles made its debut, and Richard Nixon was Time Magazine's Man of the Year.
The year was 1971 and Randy Steffan was a young boy.
Every day after school he would come home, finish his homework and then he’d follow his dad into their basement where they’d spend all night sharpening saws — the joys of youth in Dickinson. Steffan remembers well the clunks from the beams of the ceiling finally irritating his mother enough to prompt her husband to buy their own saw shop. Thus, in 1971, the Steffans opened their very own store in the heart of Dickinson.
Flash forward half a century to 2021 and Steffan continues his father’s legacy. The store celebrating their golden 50th anniversary on June 1.
“... My dad started it and you got to keep it going and be here. It's not like bankers, (who work) nine to five and you get Saturday off. We are here on Saturdays, so Sunday is pretty much our only day that we have a free day,” Steffan said. “But it’s a milestone, and (I thought), ‘Might as well (once he) started in 1971.’ Don’t you think?”
Inside Steffan Saw & Bike, old bicycles, sleds, skates, baby buggies and vintage posters decorate the store, giving a nostalgic experience for customers.
Steffan’s father began as a saw and small engine repair shop. Customers began requesting that his father begin repairing bikes. So eventually, Steffan and his father began repairing bikes and then selling brand new ones from basic coaster brakes to three and five speeds.
However, in 1972, there was a bike boom and it was difficult getting supplies, Steffan said. But in the fall of 1975, bikes became more available and so the Steffans began selling Schwinn bicycles, and that lasted for 35 years until the company decided to sell to box stores.
"I've enjoyed my 50 years here. Could be a few more. You meet a lot of customers... over the years and they come in here and they're still amazed that I'm still here and still open."
- Randy Steffan
In 1990, Steffan bought the business from his father and has been working full-time ever since. Building on his father’s store legacy was a destined move for Steffan, as he was the only sibling in his family who decided to stay in the area and carry on with his father’s shop.
Now, the store features complete saw sharpening, bike repairing as well as brand new Trek Bikes and Steel Line bicycles, which are popular items among customers. Steffan said he has difficulty keeping a full line of bikes on stock, especially with the summer underway and the implications of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Right now, I have four adult bikes in stock. And about eight or 10 kids bikes, but they don't last. You get a shipment in and we have a waiting list of at least 50-60 people looking for bicycles,” Steffan said, adding, “So (when) we get something new, we go to the list (and ask), ‘Are you still interested? If not, there's somebody else that will be.’ ...With the way everything's going, parts are hard to get, the Steel (Line) is the same way… Higher end stuff is hard to get in right now.”
The advancement in technology and engineering of bicycles today differs from when Steffan Saw & Bike opened a half a century ago.
“... When we first started (fixing) bikes, everything was pretty much easy to fix. Now, everything's gotten up to where like the breaks or hydraulics, you need fluid in them besides a cable. They're changing the method of cycling right now. They're also going into what they call electric assist. So you have a motor with a battery that actually helps you when you pedal, instead of you just pedaling,” Steffan noted.
What sets Steffan Saw & Bike apart from other bike shops and department stores is the years of experience and the quality of service the store provides to customers, Steffan said, explaining that his employee Jason Bartow has been with him for 19 years. Even if it’s just a minor adjustment, Steffan Saw & Bike is willing to lend a hand at a minimal cost in order to keep customers satisfied and coming back, he added.
At 68 years old, Steffan is still running his shop in downtown Dickinson with no room of retirement in the near future.
“Everybody (who) comes in (asks), ‘Well, when are you going to retire?’ Well, how can I retire when you don't have somebody to take it over, you know? How can you just close the door and say, ‘Goodbye everybody.’ I can't do that. So I imagine I'll be here for a while till I can't be.
Steffan smiled, adding, “I've enjoyed my 50 years here. Could be a few more. You meet a lot of customers... over the years and they come in here and they're still amazed that I'm still here and still open.”