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Ira Hughes leaves his mark on community

Ira Hughes works in his shop in the Village of Arroyo Grande a few years ago.
Ira Hughes works in his shop in the Village of Arroyo Grande a few years ago.

Ask almost anyone in South County about Ira Hughes, and they will probably have a story to tell.

Some recall the first bike they purchased from Ira, or talk about when he helped fix a flat — and then refused to accept any payment. Others remember his wit, his generosity and his sense of community.

“Some people believed this was their ‘Cheers,’ ” said Tim Moore, a local resident who met Ira when he decided to join Boy Scout Troop 410 in 1974. “You’d come in here and he’d remember your name.”

Ira, 58, died late Thursday, seven months after a persistent headache and flu-like symptoms prompted a trip to the hospital. An MRI detected a mass that turned out to be a type of aggressive cancer that affects the brain.

Over the past week, numerous people have dropped into Ira’s Bike Shop on Bridge Street, Moore said. They’ve shared stories and condolences as they weave around the 1,100-square-foot store that Ira started working at when he was 12, bought and renamed in 1975, and turned into a local landmark.

Some also shared their memories in phone interviews and emails. Terry Berryhill bought his first bike from Ira in 1985, an Italian-made De Rosa that still serves as his main bike. Ira was the only bicycle mechanic ever to work on it.

Berryhill, co-owner of Mallory-Berryhill Real Estate in Arroyo Grande, recalled Ira’s sense of humor and fair nature. “I would say, ‘How do you make a living? You give away so much,’ ” Berryhill said. “What he would charge was just almost free.”

Local resident Kevin McBride remembers buying skateboard parts from Ira. “You always walk by the shop or drive by and expect to see him waving at you,” he said.

Many others knew Ira through his involvement in Boy Scouts. He was a scoutmaster for more than 35 years, most recently for Troop 489.

Local resident Keith Storton, who took over as scoutmaster from Ira, described him as a rare kind of guy. “To be the complete package: a good businessman, a nice guy a volunteer in the community,” he said. “It’s kind of rare to have it all like that.”

A memorial service will start at 11 a.m. Friday at the Arroyo Grande Cemetery, followed by a potluck-style reception at Heritage Square Park in Arroyo Grande.

It’s very likely that more stories will be shared.