Mike De Guchteneire - Fietsen Mike
Mike de Guchteneire started as a holiday jobber before taking over the business a number of years later. Twenty years on, Fietsen Mike has become part of the scenery and the whole family is living by the sea. ‘As children, we used to draw out our go-cart racing tracks.’
My predecessor, Luc Van Walle, started a modest business in the eighties. Looking for a summer job at the age of sixteen, I ended up calling into Luc’s on the Promenade. As he could do with an extra pair of hands for the bike hire business I got a step in the door as a holiday jobber. And as Luc increasingly began to focus on the production of go-carts, he gave me a permanent job as soon as I left school.
In wintertime, I gave him a hand with production, during the summer months I manned the rental business. I loved tinkering with the go-carts and bicycles and enjoyed the contact with the customers. In 1997, Luc asked me whether I had any interest in taking over the business. Fancying the idea of working for myself, I went for it.
Being a native of Ghent, I can’t say I had the sea in my blood. We didn’t move to Knokke until I was ten, so I did spend a large part of my youth here, at the seaside. My friends and I used to draw tracks tailored to our go-carts and during road-safety classes at school we were allowed to race around in our go-carts.
We spent hours playing in the sand, building sandcastles or splashing in the sea. Talk about a care-free youth!
Also my children are being raised here. My eldest daughter is eighteen and works with me during her holidays. As a child she used to accompany me to the shop almost every day. I have a cabin right in front of the door where she used to sell paper flowers as quickly as she made them and now reads a book in her spare time. We used to walk to the seaside on a regular basis to buy flowers from other stalls and now and again she went to play at friend’s whose parents also had a business on the beach. And of course she got plenty of go-carting practice. We never went on holidays during the summer; after all, the shop was open every day. At the most, my daughter got to go on a camping outing once.
Incidentally, I owe my second wife to the sea too. She used to sell ice cream at a stall of a friend of mine, which is how we got to know one another. We were friendly at first, romance didn’t blossom until later. In the meantime, we have two children together, a four-year old and a one-year-old. They too are children of the sea. The eldest of the two doesn’t have to be asked twice to park up a cart for the night.
This is a real family business and that’s what makes it so special.
Customers who frequented the shop as children now come back with their own offspring; year after year, the same people return. I still have a few of the early carts, a child-size jeep for instance, with a little door. Sheer nostalgia! Nowadays, the recumbent trikes are particularly popular. You steer them by moving your bum. And even though we have both small and large versions, tears have been known to flow when a child is genuinely still too small for them. Especially when their older brother or sister is not ….
Fietsen Mike - Zeedijk-Alberstrand 561, 8301 Heist, +32 (0)50/ 61 31 13
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