Located at 112 Sanford Ave, Historic Downtown Sanford’s newest retail location is Train N’ Wheelz, an adaptive bicycle and skateboard shop that provides competitive job training to individuals with special needs. Train N’ Wheelz will sell and service conventional bicycles and skateboards, as well as work with and for the special needs community by offering up many adaptive and specialized options focusing on inclusiveness. Moreover, they will provide a center for individuals with special needs to acquire skill at building, repairing, and customizing bikes and skateboards, as well as point of sale operation, inventory management, and customer service experience. Once their training is complete, they are ready for regular employment in the retail marketplace.
For CEO and Founder Michele Smiley, Train N’ Wheelz is a calling. Smiley left a job in corporate America in pursuit of a larger purpose. For a time, she managed and supervised the largest Goodwill store in the area, where she saw the donations coming in and how they were used. While at Goodwill, Smiley hired multiple special needs employees, offering them a chance to work and build skills. The result? Her store smashed sales records. A key to her success was finding what these employees excelled at and allowing them to perform and thrive in those tasks. In doing so, she saw the opportunity to leave her corporate do-gooding with Goodwill behind, launching her own business and linked non-profit that will help serve the special needs community.
The “Train” in Train N’ Wheelz symbolizes the job training and skills Smiley can provide differently abled and special needs individuals. “I knew that I wanted to bring this concept to Sanford because of the JET program SCPS has set up, and also the city of Sanford has been very welcoming!” said Smiley. The JET, or Job Experience Training program, is an unpaid career exploration course where Seminole County Public Schools system students get to work at a variety of job sites under the supervision of a Job Coach. This program provides students with the opportunity to receive real life work experience in a variety of business settings. The chance for workers to obtain life skills and obtain a sense of fulfillment is an invaluable commodity within the special-needs community. Organizational skills, tactile skills, and job training opportunities will be available for those who are vetted and screened through the school system or Smiley’s own non-profit organization.
The “Wheelz” in Train N’ Wheelz is reflective of the multitude of vehicles Smiley’s retail store will offer. Adaptive and special needs bicycles, adult tricycles, wobble boards, hamboards (surfing trainers Smiley is working on making an official sport in the Special Olympics), skateboards, supskates (stand up skateboards with poles used to maneuver), and custom-made items will allow users of all differing abilities to get out and experience riding. Train N’ Wheelz will also offer personalized bikes and boards that can and will tell the individual story of the rider. A unique program will be offered where purchased bikes can be returned, to be rehabbed and donated back to the community through the non-profit arm, and the buyer given a credit towards their next vehicle.
Pamela Lynch, the Sanford CRA Executive Director and Economic Development Project Manager sees the uniqueness of the new retail and job training enterprise. “One cannot put a price on providing the freedom to those who felt previously limited of experiencing cycling, while feeling the wind in their hair and having similar experiences of those who lack similar challenges. Having Train N’ Wheelz, who specialize in adaptive bikes and skateboards, open in the City of Sanford has brought an additional energy to our Downtown,” says Lynch.
Great opportunities exist for collaboration and cross-promotion within the local cycling community, also. Brenda Urias, Owner and Director of Bicikleta Bike Shop also located here in Historic Downtown Sanford, stated “We are excited to have Train N’ Wheelz join the cycling community in Historic Downtown Sanford. They offer an amazing opportunity for those with special needs to also enjoy cycling. We look forward to working together to continue to make cycling inclusive for all in our community.”