In 1975, Wayne Busho bought a bike. It was nothing crazy special for the time, just a 10-speed bicycle that would help get him from point A to point B, but little did Busho know that purchase would be the very thing to put him on his vibrant and beloved career path.
“I didn’t really think it would turn into this,” Busho laughed as he pulled up a chair in the office of Straight River Sports in Owatonna. “I really didn’t.”
A couple years after buying his bike from Al Martin, Busho came to work full time for Martin in his bike shop, Martin’s Cycling Fitness. Since then, Busho and the bike shop have seen multiple locations throughout Owatonna and four different owners. On Friday, Busho will hang up his wrench and tire pump, retiring after 41 years in the business.
Over the last four decades, Busho has done it all — from sales to repairs to customer service. While he easily is considered Owatonna’s very own bike guru today, Busho said it wasn’t always the case.
“Back then I knew nothing,” Busho said about when he was first hired by Martin in 1979. “Al and Cathy really took a chance on me, and it’s great that they did. They really mentored me along the way.”
Martin believes that bringing Busho on as his first-ever hire at the shop was one of the best business decisions he ever made.
“He was just a young kid, but I was a young kid, too,” Martin said. “As we were growing as a business we needed somebody, and Wayne was the man. I had seen the loyalty in him and honestly he was a natural at it. He’s like a brother to me now.”
In the beginning, the shop focused on selling bicycles and mopeds before transitioning to other accessories, clothing, cross country skis, and eventually to electric bikes after Martin sold and the store became Straight River Sports. It was then that Busho worked for Ann Paulson and Katie McIntosh, two more influential employers.
“The electric bikes are really the future,” Busho said, adding that Paulson sold Straight River Sports so she could focus on selling electric bikes in the Twin Cities. “A lot of things about this industry are becoming more technical, and I’m more of an old school guy.”
Busho’s love for a traditional bicycle spans beyond his impressive career. In fact, Busho loves biking so much that he has not owned a vehicle for 20 years.
“It just got to be stupid that I had a car,” Busho laughed, saying that he lives on a couple blocks from work, the grocery store and his family. “It has been really liberating, the freedom of having a bike. I have saved a lot of money by not owning a car and it just really works for me.”
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Busho said that the shop — which is now owned by Andy Boe — has never been busier. At first he said he was skeptical about what the public health crisis would do to the industry, admitting that he feared he would simply be laid off because of a lack of work, but the public proved him wrong by buying up whatever bikes and accessories Straight River Sports could provide and keeping Busho and the other employees on their toes.
“The truth is, when you work in retail you have to be here a lot, we don’t get as much time to go out and be on our bikes as much as we’d like,” Busho said. “So I’m retiring because I can.”
Though bikes inadvertently become his passion over the years, Busho said he feels confident leaving the shop and knowing that Owatonna’s biking community will be taken care of by Boe and the rest of the staff.
“This industry is always changing and you need new, young blood in here,” Busho said. “These are bright young men with good heads on their shoulders and they are passionate about their work. Owatonna is in good hands.”
Martin said he isn’t surprised that Busho cares so deeply not only about the biking community, but the town he’s lived in his whole life.
“Wayne was loyal to me and loyal to the shop,” Martin said. “But he is most loyal to Owatonna. He loves Owatonna and has don’t things to preserve it — that’s what has kept him there all these years.”
Looking into retirement, Busho said he hopes to work on personal projects here and there. When asked if he would consider continuing any work with the biking community, Busho said he wasn’t sure, but would definitely like to see the trail system expanded to the old bridge in Clinton Falls as well as a connection all the way to Faribault.
Overall, though, Busho said he is simply looking forward to putting out a “gone riding” sign and spending time doing what he loves more: riding a bike.