By RICHARD VIRGILLIO
After seven years, the nation is finally learning what Asbury Park has known for years: Second Life Bikes, the non-profit that repairs and sells bikes and keeps lives on track, is making a tangible impact on Monmouth County.
During the past 10 days, Second Life Bikes on Main Street and the organization’s founder Kerri Martin have been featured on two national news programs, “CBS Evening News” and NBC’s “Today.”
I spoke with Martin and one of her student volunteers, Noah Swanson, from Wall about their newfound spotlight, which is a case study for any local business in the “snowball effect” of public relations.
TBP: I hear this all started with regional media coverage. Those types of outlets are considered the “farm teams” for national news media.
Martin: A few years ago after reading stories about us in “The Coaster” and other local papers, a reporter with a Northern New Jersey newspaper wrote a story about us that landed on the cover. Based on that article a reporter from “Family Circle” magazine reached out to me and began researching a story.
After a bunch of interviews and photos, about a year went by and the article published.
TBP: And the big guys have come calling.
Martin: First it was the “CBS Evening News.” It was such a great feeling when Steve Hartman walked in here and I saw him look at his producers and mouth “wow.”
That interview aired on Friday (July 12) evening and we had a big screening at Bond Street, which was so much fun. I was so glad to be surrounded by friends and supporters that have been with me since the beginning.
Last Thursday, “Today” producers came and spent more than four hours here interviewing me and some of the kids here. They were interested in how I started the organization, what the kids do, who our customers are – things like that.
Swanson: They asked me what I do here, why I came here and how sweet Kerri is.
Martin: I would have been so nervous I would have cried if I was Noah or one of those kids but they all did a great job speaking to the camera. Noah is a great kid that came here not being really interested in bikes and now he is a champion racer with medals to prove it.
When “Today” came it was the perfect day. This place was humming and nothing makes me happier. It was the perfect spectrum of kids working and learning together.
TBP: What is the future of Second Life Bikes, media and non-media wise?
Martin: We are working with the new Queen Latifah Show and a couple of big shows in Los Angeles right now.
When it comes to this shop, looking around here, my dream has already come true. In 2009, I quit my job to make this a full-time shop that teaches kids how to repair bikes and sells them as well as repairs bikes for other people, not knowing what the future was going to hold. Today my dream has come true. I can wish for nothing more. To see this big, cavernous room filled with probably 650 bikes and kids working together is to me living a dream of something bigger than I could have ever imagined. If nothing comes out of this media attention, it is fine. Anything more is a bonus.
Ideally, we want to do more education programs for students, more helping the community. The goal for Second Life Bike’s Board of Directors is to purchase this building soon. We are fund-raising right now to have the security of knowing we can make an impact for decades to come.
Contact Richard Virgillio at Richard@TheBPlot.com