Maplewood History: The Maplewood Bike Shop (Updated)

In the early 1970’s I lived for a while in the Delmar Loop area.  I had a very cheap ten speed bike that I had purchased used from a friend.  I didn’t need a lot of money to live on in those days.  Somehow I had managed to accumulate the staggering sum of $325 in my savings account.  It seemed perfectly reasonable to take $125 of it and buy my first fairly good bicycle.

I went down to the Touring Cyclist Shop which was in U. City on Olive.  I had made up my mind to buy a Peugeot bike.  I had spent some time looking at one while I was in the army.  Also I remember reading an article about a local fellow who was discharged from whatever branch of service he was in near Seattle.  He had bought a Peugeot bicycle there and ridden it to his home in St. Louis.

That was good enough for me, I thought. I’ll get one for myself.  So I took my money, went into the bike shop and was promptly dissuaded from buying the Peugeot bike of my dreams.  The bike repairman/salesman somehow, in ways I don’t remember, convinced me I’d be better off with a Raleigh Grand Prix.  He had a beautiful blue one.  It had no kickstand so at my insistence he installed one made of an aluminum alloy.  He sawed a couple of inches off the end of it and threw the scrap in a bucket.  He was saving the alloy for a friend who was building his own airplane, he told me.

In those days I worked the second shift at the Chrysler plant in Fenton.  I had friends there named Dan and Mary Glen.  Dan rode a bicycle made in Holland called a Gazelle.  He was very tall so his bike had a very large frame.  One day Dan came to work with an interesting story.  He needed a spoke wrench.  For some reason he went to the Maplewood Bike Shop to get one.  He didn’t live in Maplewood so I haven’t any idea why.

Dan told me when he walked into the store there was a man who was working on a bike in the front room.  He asked Dan if he could help him.  Dan said he needed a spoke wrench.  The man picked one up that happened to be sitting near him, tossed it to Dan and said, “Here you go.”  No charge.

I thought, “Wow.”  That is the kind of bike shop I need to go to.  So I did.  I didn’t live in Maplewood, but I came often.  I rode my bike from my apartment on Delmar to my friend Tom Harrison’s house on Princeton and caught a ride to work.  Then at about 4:00 in the morning I’d ride my bike back home.

The man who tossed Dan the spoke wrench turned out to be the owner of the shop, Rich Morris. Over the years, my family, friends and I bought thirteen bicycles from the Maplewood Bike Shop.  Not a bad return on a spoke wrench.

I moved to Maplewood in 1975. Rich and his family had a house on Del Norte in Richmond Heights.  I would ride right by it on my way to Forest Park.  Many times he’d be sitting out on the front porch.  On one trip I noticed he had a new Mercedes Benz sitting in the driveway.  “How many Schwinn Paramounts are there in a Mercedes?” I yelled as I rode by.  “27”, he answered.

After Rich finally retired I ran into him at the gym at the Heights.  I said now that you’ve retired you’ll finally have some time to ride those bikes.  Rich said, “Oh, I never do. They’re too dangerous.”

We’ve seen this one before. It was kindly provided by Mary Piles, curator of things historic at CNB STL. It came from a Red Album by Gerry Vazis that the bank had stored in their vault. The occasion was Easter, April 1, 1955.  The location is Sutton Blvd. just south of Maple Avenue.

Doug Smith was kind enough to send this 1979 image of the buildings that once housed the second location of the Maplewood Bike Shop. He had this to say,”It was a Polaroid from when I was just about to buy the building. The bicycle shop had moved to Manchester, but was being held to their lease, so they were using it for bike storage. I got them off the hook buy buying the building. I allowed them to continue to store bikes in the 2907 side (north) and Rich Morris was grateful and said. “I would like to do something for you”. There was a pile of bike frame and parts in the corner, so I ask to put it back together into a first class riding bike, but “don’t make it look new. Soo… I got a great riding one speed basic bike that looked like an old beat up bike that no one would want to steal. I used it to ride up to Manchester for errands and no one stole it. He also left a mannequin elevation platform which I put legs on and it became a first class photo shooting table. He had gotten it as salvage from Famous Barr, and it had some kind of plaid wool, back side out. I removed it and as it turned out, it was a very fine grade of wool from the 1950s, that had not been available in many years. Sue, my wife, made me a great jacket from that wool. There was enough for her to cut around damaged areas. Still have it today. I was never aware of the earlier location for the bike shop (in the first image). When we bought the building in late 1979, that building was free standing with the other buildings already gone. Gillstrap Plumbing was doing business there, and the apartments were there.”

This 2011 image of the buildings is after an extensive and sensitive renovation was done.  Doug Smith, who still owns these properties, operated his custom photography business here from 1979 until 2011?  Doug, thank you for the images and thanks for your wonderful contribution to our streetscape.

When Maplewood Bicycle made this move to 7534 Manchester it was the 3rd location assuming that the one in the first image was the first.  After just 6 years on Sutton they were ready to expand.

This article ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on October 17, 1983.

The Morris family in 1973, the year that they bought the bike shop.

Rich Morris with the company van. The last two images are courtesy of Joyce Schuetz-Morris and Todd Morris.

The Maplewood Bicycle shop is a first class establishment where everyone will feel welcome.  If you haven’t been there, you should go.  If you haven’t been in awhile, you should go back.  You’ll feel comfortable no matter what level you ride at.  Check them out online.  This is another long time Maplewood business that deserves our patronage.

As always, I appreciate the support, tips, comments and whatever from all of you. As far as the virus goes, we are not out of the woods yet.  Wear your mask.

Doug Houser       November 5, 2020

16 thoughts on “Maplewood History: The Maplewood Bike Shop (Updated)

  1. I graduated from MRH in 1953. The Yearbooks of ’52 & ’53 included the following ad;
    The Specialty Cycle Shop at 2712 Sutton,owned by John Gusoskey. So, it seems that there was an earlier location, different name and owner.
    Doug, please feel free to use the two pictures that my son ,Todd sent to you. The one of the family was ’73. The year that we purchased the Maplewood Bike Shop.

    • Joyce and Todd, Thank you. I have posted your photos above. Joyce, you mention an earlier bike shop located at 2712 Sutton called The Specialty Cycle Shop. The address of the first Maplewood Bicycle shop that we have a photo of is 2918 or close to that. I wonder if the Specialty Shop is an earlier incarnation or a completely different shop and owner?

  2. Thank you for writing such a great article. Having grown up in my family’s business it was always amazing to see customers from near and far praise our store. We were truly blessed to have a successful business. The quote about how many bikes were sold {27} to buy a Mercedes was a typical nod to my dad’s sense of humor. The store continues to thrive with new owner Stewart Munson.

    • Hey Todd, Your Dad’s sense of humor was a definite factor in why I and many other folks kept returning. He is missed. Stewart is a very nice fellow as well. He is a worthy successor to Rich. I am always looking to add to my Maplewood files. If you have any old photos you think the readers of this blog might be interested in I would love to get copies. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Doug, Gary here, I’m embarrassed as I only remember the bike shop on Sutton, and I think it was where a violin shop was later established. I went in there when I was a kid (now 72) when I was trying to figure out how the gears of my 3 speed worked. Then I knew them when they were on the south side of Manchester, a few doors west of Big Bend. What are the addresses of the pictures shown? Also, have you ever done anything on the O’Hare Foundry?

    • Hey Gary, I don’t have the addresses but both of the buildings are still there as seen in the 2011 photo. I haven’t done anything on the foundry but it’s a good idea. Thanks.

  4. Maplewood Bike Shop had a second location, directly across Sutton from the one pictured. I can send photo of the building in late 1979. The bike shop had moved, but was still storing bikes at the Sutton location.

  5. I remember about 15 years ago going to Maplewood Cycles to get some parts for Giant Steps (which at the time was not in Maplewood, but in West County).
    When he learned the parts were for a school, Rich refused to take any payment for them.
    What can I say? Great guy, great business (then and now).

    • It is the truth, Charles. I bet there are many more similar stories about Rich out there. Much thanks for sharing this one.

  6. Great photo of my old neighborhood. I grew up on Flora between Big Bend and Sutton from the mid 40s on.
    I see the little shoe repair shop in the photo. I remember it being run by a Russian fellow. No matter what you took in there, he would look at it and say “Cheap shoes”. He did a great job repairing shoes. There was also a barber shop in that row but my favorite place was Priscilla’s.
    It was a classic ice cream parlor from the old days and had excellent ice cream.
    I moved away for 3 years in 62 to join the Army and bought a house on Rannells when we got out. Moved to Crestwood in 78 when it looked like apartment complexes took over Maplewood. Worked 27 years at Sunnen. Deep roots in Maplewood.

  7. We’ve been taking our bikes here for many years to be serviced. Between me and my husband, we have purchased 5 Hybrid Trek bikes from them over the years. Always good and fast service. Very friendly establishment and good bike mechanics.

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