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Beyond Bikes

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."

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After her four-4 mile walk earlier that morning, Martha puts on mascara in her bathroom mirror as she gets ready for work.

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Martha wears a unique pair of earrings as she works on paperwork in her back office. Emmons said her earrings were one of only three pairs made at a silver craft shop in Mackinac Island, Michigan. She sold the other two pairs in her bike shop but kept the last pair just for herself.

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Members of the community meet outside of Martha's shop to bike ride together through Bob Noble Park. Throughout the week, during warmer months, Martha organizes these bike rides Mondays through Thursdays with a crowd of regulars usually in attendance.

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After working from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. that day, Martha chats with a customer picking up a shirt from the shop, as she prepares to close down for the night.

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Martha chats with her friend and customer Karen Hammond in her shop as they discuss finding riding gloves for the colder months of biking.

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Martha bikes through Bob Noble Park with a group of fellow cyclists. Martha believes that biking through the community makes it a friendlier place. "You can go past a place a hundred times in a day, but when you ride past it on a bike, you see things you've never seen before," Martha says. "Someone who might be intimidated to talk to you while in a Porsche doesn't feel that way then. Everyone talks on bikes."

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Hanging in their bedroom at home, Martha and Hutch have a collage puzzle of family photographs. The photos range from Hutch's parents, to the couple and to their children. "Our daughters were raised on the bicycle business," Martha says.

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As part of their nightly routine, Martha and Hutch sit together in the living room to eat dinner and unwind while watching television. After finding a humorous post on Facebook, Emmons cuddles up next to Smith to share the post with him.