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WHEELS: Schomberg bike shop owners restore historic grain elevator
Caledon Enterprise

Restorations are just what John Sheard does.

The owner and mechanic of Main Street Custom Powersports in Schomberg specializes in bringing old, rusted bikes back to life.

But, with more than 30 years of experience, his restoration visions don’t stop at motorcycles – he recently restored the old, iconic grain elevator on Highway 9 in Schomberg for his new shop.

“I can see something that has potential and I know it’s repairable,” he said. “It’s just my nature to be able to see something that’s old and know it’s value.”

So when he was in the process of opening his own bike shop and his real estate agent suggested the former Schomberg Feed and Garden Supplies building, he instantly saw its hidden possibilities.

“This building is like me restoring an antique motorcycle,” he said, from the front of the shop, drawings of the Sons of Anarchy characters hanging on the wall behind him. “It had life to it.”

It was just a matter of someone seeing it.

While the renovation included nearly everything from the floors to the ceiling – and beyond – the toughest part, he said, was “convincing everyone that it was doable.”

His wife and co-owner Joanne Pearson admits she lost faith at times during the renovations, when they started last April.

At first, they thought it was just going to be cosmetic changes, painting the walls, etc. But once they started working in the building, its true age started to show.

Grain was still in the elevator, which hadn’t been used for nearly 20 years. And the place had been taken over by rats.

“They were rats, they weren’t mice,” said Pearson. “Giant rats.”

They had nested in the walls, chewed through all the insulation, ruined the drywall, and damaged the wiring throughout the entire building. There were scorch marks on the insides of the wall where they had chewed through the wires.

“We kinda freaked out a bit,” she said. “But we had no choice.”

They had to rip the walls down, rewire everything. The whole building had started to decay – the wood porch had rotted along with the birch posts holding the entire building up.

“It was ready to tip over,” said Pearson, with a giggle only time can bring.

They had to jack up the building to lower it to the ground, pour new concrete, and completely rebuild the front porch – and they used all local contractors and friends to help them do it.

But it was important to keep everything as close to the original as possible, they said.  Continued from

“It was an icon of the community and we wanted to preserve the building,” she said. And for the couple who had lived and raised their children in Nobleton for more than 20 years, they knew the history well.

They didn’t change much of the layout of the building, kept paint colours and general look the same as when they bought it.

“It has a community feeling,” she said, although many locals were worried and skeptical when they first started renovating. People were afraid they were going to do something drastic to the building, she said.

Now, people come in to see what they’ve done – not just the motorcycles.

“It’s fantastic,” said Pearson. “It has a better feel, it’s not like you’re in the back corner of an industrial unit.”

Even though they haven’t been open a year yet, they have already participated in Schomberg’s infamous Main Street Christmas this year – including their own float in the parade.

Walk through the building and it already feels like they have made it their own. The front is lined with previously owned cycles for sale, the southern room is the shop for custom builds and repairs and the back part of the store has a counter to order parts and service. There’s also Angus, a two-year-old black lab who is more than willing to great anyone who walks through the door.

It was worth the effort, they said.

“It’s always tougher to restore,” he said. “That’s just the way the world is.”

People are more likely to take down the entire building and start fresh. But to Sheard, that mentality is absurd.

It’s the same with the motorcycles, he said. “To throw them in the garbage and buy a new one is crazy,” he said.

While it was more effort to restore the building than start fresh, it has already paid off for the longtime local couple.

Plus, it’s just what Sheard does.

“Most people see a piece of junk and that’s not the case,” he said. “Things are worth being restored.”