- Chicago, IL
Cycle Smithy was founded in 1973. It's first address was 2113 N Clark St. Our first business model was renting refurbished bikes that had been found in the trash. I also for a short time built frames, sleeping in the shop for the first year until someone was kind enough to let me move in with them.
As time passed, I went from a cash only business to accepted checks and charges, which was a huge step for me at the time and eventually was allowed a dealership for several brands of bikes. Early customers may recall finding the shop closed on busy Saturdays with a note giving an excuse of a death in the family - chances were I was probably out playing bicycle polo. Eventually I gave up frame building because I found I could make as much profit selling one mid-range bike as it took two weeks to craft one custom hand built bike. That's right, I sold out.
In 1978, the owner of Park West Schwinn, a shop up the street from me, got tired of the game and was looking for a sublet to get out of his lease. I took him up on his offer and moved in that Fall. Going from 600 sq. feet to 4,000 sq. feet insured a substantial increase in rent. To accommodate the seasonality of the bike business, I opened a slot car track with an ad hoc hobby shop. This operation was on the lower level. The footprint of the track was 50'x20', and was a bit tight as the space in the room was 80'x25'. A varied crew of adult delinquents often kept the track busy up until 2 or 3 in the morning.
Eventually, the bike industry reinvented itself, and I sold the track on Christmas Day of 1983. The advent of the then new mountain bike and triathlons secured the shop's future.