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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Ani Previc, 21, stands 4 feet 10 inches tall, but has not let her size or age stop her from seeing her goals to fruition.

Previc, an SFCC student, has changed the face of Gainesville's bike community by being a key founder of the Gainesville Community Bicycling Project, also known as The Kickstand.

The Kickstand is a free bicycle-repair shop, which offers free bike maintenance to the Gainesville community.

The warehouse, located on 722 S. Main St., is split into three sections: The Kickstand Thrift Shop, which opened two weeks ago and is used to earn money for rent, a stage for live music performances and the bicycle repair shop itself.

The process of getting the shop started was not a quick one though.

Previc first learned how to repair her own bike in a friend's garage only two years ago, but after that she was hooked.

Along with a few friends, she started her quest to begin a working bicycle collective in Gainesville that would offer free bike repair to everyone.

The small group began working on the street corner of Northwest Third Street, while Previc looked for a more permanent and professional working space.

It took Previc and her friends two years to find the space inside the HIFI Stereo shop, and all the while, she had to keep people interested in the movement.

"I would call people and be like, 'Hey do you want to come volunteer on Third Street?' or 'Do you want to come to a volunteer meeting?' and everyone was like, 'Oh, I just don't see where this is going,'" she said. "I refused to give up and this is going to happen because I've seen it happen other places and I've seen it transform communities in other cities."

When The Kickstand moved to Main Street in December, the space was used primarily as a music venue to raise money for the shop with a suggested admission donation of $5.

But Previc said the focus is finally moving from live shows back to bicycles.

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Now, the shop is open for repairs four days a week with different volunteers working every day. The most common repair is flat tires, she said.

There are about 20 to 30 core volunteers who attend meetings regularly, she said, but the store's hours depend on if volunteers actually show up.

It's not all about service though. There are teaching sessions as well. Brian Erickson teaches basic and advanced bicycle repair and Previc hopes to lead a workshop for women and transgenders, she said.

For anyone interested in voicing their opinions and suggestion for the shop, weekly meetings are held at 7 p.m. on Thursdays and repair workshops are every other week.

Previc identifies herself as more of a social leader at The Kickstand while Vyki Englert is more the tasks leader, keeping the topics on point and following the agenda.

"For me it's important to mediate during the meeting, to make sure everyone has a fair amount of time to spend, that their voice is heard," Previc said. "I think because of that everyone feels included and that is something that's really important to me - that everyone feels included in the group."

She said although she is the director and a key founder of The Kickstand, no one person holds all of the power and it is a collective because everyone has a voice.

"Leadership is a very fluid thing and it's whoever wants to take responsibility for a certain position," she said. "I think it works best that way because no one feels as though they are being forced to do anything or that they are working under anyone else."

She said a community is built when everyone feels included, adding that making everyone feel useful is a skill she can take wherever the future takes her.

The Kickstand has existed solely by word of mouth thus far, but she said volunteers are currently working on distributing pamphlets throughout different neighborhoods in Gainesville with the hopes of inviting more families with children.

"We want to make them feel as if they can send their kids to us after school," she said. "Or they feel comfortable coming to our shop and they know when we are open, and they don't feel excluded from anything."

Previc said she feels solid about where The Kickstand is today and she is happy it has finally taken off.

She said the shop is still a work in progress and needs more organization and better volunteer coordination, but it has come a long way.

"I feel like the people I am working with now have a good idea of how to run a bike shop and it will be around for a long time after I am gone."

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