BLOOMFIELD, CT (BRAIN)—Brian Tinsley kept asking for a job as a mechanic at Mike Wolf’s store, but Wolf kept telling him no—that is unless he got some credible training.
And that’s what Tinsley did. He contacted the Veteran’s Administration and they arranged for classes. Today the 25-year-old Army veteran is building and repairing bikes despite a bullet wound through his head that has left him permanently blind.
Wolf, the owner of Bloomfield Bicycle & Repair, said Tinsley assembled more than 300 bikes this summer. “And every one of them was perfect,” he said. Wolf has since set Tinsley up with a home workshop and space at the store.
In the meantime, Tinsley has become a celebrity of sorts in Bloomfield. After a feature about him appeared in the local media, NBC, CNN and other outlets picked up Tinsley’s story. The news coverage, which appeared around Veterans Day, sparked a deluge of gifts and heartfelt thanks for Tinsley’s service, Wolf said.
“I’ve been in business for 52 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the 70-year-old Wolf. “He has such an incredible attitude. One reporter who was interviewing him actually started crying. People have been coming into the shop, giving him gifts and thanking him for his service. One woman came in and kissed him and Home Depot gave him a $100 gift certificate."
Wolf, however, said the bicycle industry should pay attention to potential employees like Tinsley. “Bicycle dealers should look into hiring disabled vets and I have a lot of advice I could give them,” he said.
Wolf had been very concerned about liability issues that could arise from having a blind man work on bicycles. “We’ve ironed that out,” he said.
Look for an interview with Brian Tinsley in the January issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News as well as Mike Wolf’s solution for putting a veteran to work.