The corner of 48th & Grand was quieter than usual Monday morning, with a single bouquet of flowers tied to the handrail of Charlie’s Tangletown Bike Shop honoring the store’s owner and proprietor, Charlie Siftar, who died suddenly last week.
“He went out for a ride last Wednesday with one of our customers, a friend, Dan Hansen,” said shop co-manager Mike O’Leary. “Dan came here after having bad experiences with other shops in town, and he could instantly feel and tell that this is what you expect and want from a bike shop, that you can come in here and feel the love and the welcoming.
“They had ridden a few times before, they were about a mile into the trail, took it easy going in, and they stopped and were laughing and talking about trail conditions and which route to go, and Dan had a Bluetooth speaker and they were listening to music and Dan was like, ‘Yeah! Fat bikes and rock ‘n’ roll! This is awesome. What a great day.’ And they were getting ready to go and Charlie literally just fell over. Dan immediately called 911 and worked on him for 15 minutes before the EMTs came, and other riders came by and helped and showed the EMTs exactly where he was, but there wasn’t anything anyone could do.
“He died doing what he loved and what he was passionate about, which is amazing, and I only hope I can go out that way.”
In 2013, Siftar left his career as an engineer and salesman to resurrect the shuttered bike storefront on West 48th Street. Over the last few years, he became a passionate bicycle advocate for the Tangletown neighborhood and beyond. Monday night as mourners packed Edina Covenant Church for Siftar’s memorial service, the night’s story and song festivities at the Morningside After Dark program at Edina Morningside Community Church were dedicated to Siftar, who grew up in the closely-knit Morningside neighborhood and transferred its small-town charms to Tangletown.
“The community has been amazing,” said O’Leary. “I knew that Charlie had a big impact on the community, and I saw it on a daily basis, how he would reach out — with the junior high and Southside composite mountain bike teams and Washburn kids especially. The coaches have come in and told us how much he’ll be missed and how devastating it’s been for their children and for everybody else on the team.
“The outpouring of love that I’ve felt over the last few days has been completely humbling. It’s a testament to Charlie, and it’s a testament to who he was as a person and how he lived his life. Everything Charlie did was for the community, because he wanted to. That’s who he was. He was so excited when he got his bike shop.”
The 57-year-old Siftar was a member of the Tangletown Neighborhood Association and a volunteer with the free meal program Loaves and Fishes, and by all accounts his giving nature extended to family, friends and strangers — who didn’t remain strangers for very long.
“We first met Charlie at his grand opening party in March of 2012, where we were greeted with a cold beer, a hamburger off the grill, and a complimentary light to go on my bike,” said Tangletown resident and musician Craig Paquette. “We have walked by his bike shop nearly every day since. Charlie has been responsible for organizing, hosting and participating in numerous rides, seminars, and biking events for all ages throughout the area, and the last two years he has been the driving force for organizing and raising money for the Minneapolis Bike Week block party on 48th & Grand.”
Tuesday morning, Charlie’s Tangletown Bike Shop was up and running and open for business as usual — albeit with a newfound mission to honor its namesake.
“Charlie would make a point, if he saw someone walking by outside that was a customer or a friend or just somebody in the neighborhood, and going outside and, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ and greet ‘em and talk to ‘em. He would take his time and give it freely away. He was the most genuine person I’ve ever met,” said O’Leary.
“Charlie was a mentor to me. I can safely say that a big reason I am the person I am today is because of him. He showed me what it was to be selfless, and he showed me what it was to reach out to the community and spend his time doing things for everybody else. It’s going to be sad that he’s not going to be here anymore.
“The bike shop will stay open. I will promise that. There is a legacy to uphold. There’s something bigger than myself, and bigger than the other employees here, and an importance of this place to the community and it’s not something that will go away. It’s a staple on this corner. People loved Charlie, and people love this bike shop and Rebecca, his wife, and I, will figure out how to keep it open. So it’s not going anywhere. That’s my promise. It will always be Charlie’s bike shop.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org