A business more about ministry than making a profit
LITCHFIELD, MN After taking a loss two years in a row and closing the original Bikes By Bob in Litchfield four years ago, Bob Tanner of Darwin then lost his right-hand man son Kristofor Tanner in an accident nearly two years ago.
“When Kristofor died, I wasn’t sure if I would ever reopen,” Tanner said.
In fact, when the opportunity first presented itself to purchase a building and again open the bike shop, it was not even clear where the funds would come from to make it happen.
But powers beyond Tanner’s control were at work to guide him and his brother-in-law, Brandon Kosse, into reopening the business that is “more about ministry than making a profit,” according to Tanner.
“Whatever God asks, are you going to tell him ‘no?’ I’m not,” Tanner said.
Bikes By Bob opened in April in the building now named Kristofor Square. Several other businesses have since leased space, and groups are using the building for meetings.
Kristofor Square attaining a building perfect for ministry
“The building just came together. One month, I wasn’t even thinking about it, and the next month, we were closing on it,” Tanner said.
Earlier this year, Tanner was doing business at Home State Bank when Senior Vice President John Spreiter commented about a bank-owned building that could be bought outright.
The building is the former Meeker Cooperative building on US Highway 12 in Litchfield.
Originally a Hudson dealership when built in the 1940s, the Rural Electric Association bought the building in 1948, added office space to the front, and it became the home of Meeker Cooperative.
Shortly after being told about the building, Tanner mentioned it to Kosse while spending the day together in the waiting room while Kristie, Kosse’s wife and Tanner’s sister, had surgery.
Kosse, a former aviation mechanics professor at Liberty University in Virginia, and Kristie moved to Minnesota with their three children after Kristofor died, in order to be closer to family.
“I think he thought about the building more than I did dreaming about the building,” Tanner said.
The large open space that was originally the shop for the Hudson dealership was perfect for a bike shop, and also had enough space for a coffee shop with a drive-through window.
The exposed brick walls, antique garage doors, tall ceilings, and glass block windows provided great atmosphere.
The office space in the front of the building could be refurbished and leased to other businesses, and used for groups to gather.
“I actually started praying we wouldn’t get it,” Tanner added, noting it would be emotionally difficult to reopen the bike shop without Kristofor.
However, soon after Tanner and Kosse’s conversation, Kristie asked Tanner how he was going to come up with his half of the money to make the building purchase possible.
Tanner’s response was, “Not a problem, I just need a couple cattle off a thousand hills,” referring to Bible verse Psalm 50:10.
“It’s just been one thing after another,” Tanner said about how everything fell into place following that conversation.
Within two or three days, Tanner’s first “cattle” came in the form of an unexpected check, he said.
His next “cattle” was being able to salvage the display cases, counters, and other items from the former Schaefer’s Studio photography business in downtown Litchfield, which are used display bike parts and accessories sold at the shop.
Close to the time of closing on the building, Tanner and Kosse offered the bank what they had to put down on the building. The counter offer from the bank was that they pay the $6,000 closing costs.
That’s when more “cattle” found their way into the deal. Real estate agent Zach Rogness told Tanner and Kosse not to worry about the closing costs, he would take care of them.
Thus, Bikes By Bob opened in April, and several businesses have since leased office space.
Tanner notes that many of the lessees also view this endeavor as a ministry. One lessee “prays over the building on her way in every morning; that’s cool,” Tanner said.
There is a men’s group and youth groups that have started using the building as a meeting space, he added.
The State of Minnesota recently approved opening the coffee shop in the bike shop, and Tanner is simply waiting for a plumber to have time to install the equipment.
Another couple cattle came when Tanner and Kosse were able to purchase dining tables and chairs from an old Dairy Queen at a very reasonable cost.
“Yeah, I’m going to make a living here, but it needs to be a place where people feel safe, too,” Tanner said.
He points out the couches in the bike repair area for customers to sit on.
“I want to be able to talk to people while working on their bikes,” Tanner said. “How else are you going to know what’s going on with them and what to pray about?”
Reopening Bikes By Bob is just one more step in living the Christ-like life both Kristofor and Tanner sought while attending the men’s group Sheepdogs together.
The group works very hard to study what Christ asked of his disciples, and to live their lives in a similar manner, Tanner said.
Tanner said that Jesus Christ surrounded himself with people like longshoremen while he walked the earth, and longshoremen are rude and crude characters.
“It’s weird, because the people I relate to best are like that,” Tanner added.
A part of that ministry is getting bikes to children who don’t have them through area pastors and organizations.
“There is no reason a kid should go without a bike,” Tanner said. “We’ve given a lot of bikes away, which is pretty cool.”
Many of the bikes that have been given away are donated to the shop by those who no longer need them.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of people that come in to give us bikes,” Bob said. “It’s grown so fast, it’s crazy.”
The shop also deals in new bikes, selling Redline, Raleigh, and Diamondbacks.
‘Ramifications of Kristofor going home are pretty cool’
Kristofor, a 2008 Dassel-Cokato High School graduate, was 23 when he died Sept. 30, 2013, in an accident on US Highway 12 just east of Dassel.
It is believed he fell asleep behind the wheel of his car after working overnight installing floors in the Twin Cities area.
His car swerved over the center line and was hit by a semi-truck. One of the first people on the scene told the Tanners that Kristofor had a look of peace on his face.
Not only did Tanner and his wife, Sandy, lose a son, but their other four children, JT, Taborah, Natasha, and Paul, lost their older brother, mentor, and friend.
Sandy said she realized how many other lives Kristofor had impacted following his death.
“He was everybody’s best friend, very charismatic,” she said. “I’m a very hands-on mom, but there are still things I didn’t realize.”
At Sheepdog meetings, the last of which Kristofor attended just two days before his death, he and his father always sat on a loveseat together.
Kristofor looked at Tanner during that last meeting and said, “Dad, you know what? I’m ready to go home.”
Tanner’s response to his son was, “How can you be? I’m not ready.” But Kristofor had reached the point in his faith where he was comfortable before God with the kind of man he was, Tanner noted.
That fact has helped the Tanner family get through the loss, and to share his story as a way to lead others to Christ.
“Sixty-five people have accepted Christ because Kristofor went home,” Bob said. “The ramifications of him going home are pretty cool.”
One of those people was Kristofor’s best friend, for whom he had prayed for several years.
Others are students and youth in Spokane, WA, where Natasha and Taborah have attended school and shared their testimonies.
Paul will also be attending Moody Bible Institute in the fall after working in the bike shop with his dad this summer.