story by Kelsea Hobbs
The front door swings open and a bell chimes through the store announcing that a customer has walked in. Beyond the rows of shiny new bicycles and the bells and whistles for them, a small voice comes from a bright green office tucked away in the back.
"Well, hi there!" Martha Emmons calls, as if addressing a best friend, even if she's talking to a stranger.
Martha Emmons, 63, is co-owner of BikeWorld in Paducah. She owns the shop with her husband, Hutch Smith, 67. After realizing that they would both soon be without a job in 1981, Martha and Hutch decided it was time to start looking for new work. This is what led the young couple to Paducah, but it wouldn't be the last time the two of them would switch jobs.
Six years after moving to Paducah and accepting a new job, her husband would persuade her to join him on the venture of opening BikeWorld. The impact the shop would have on her life was something Martha never predicted.
Although they had been in Paducah for six years, they didn't believe that they quite fit in with the community – until they opened BikeWorld.
"We had a hard time as a young couple with no children," Martha says. "We didn't have a hard time finding friendly people, but we had a hard time making friends. As soon as we opened the store, somehow we met a whole other group of people." Bike World was Martha's gateway to becoming an active and revered citizen of Paducah.
Almost 30 years later, Martha does more with her community than ever. Running her business, donating bikes to schools and organizing bike riding groups, Martha believes that through her shop, she's making Paducah a better place. She says, "Bicycles make a community not only friendlier but safer.
"It's a service to mankind," Martha says. "It is feeling like we make a difference in the quality of life. Like we've helped and constantly help the people in Paducah have a better place to live."