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Final days in business for The Missing Link bike shop

Posted by on June 25th, 2012 at 3:07 pm

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Shop owner Joe Rettke behind the counter.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Missing Link bike shop on NE Sandy and 72nd will close at the end of this month. After nine years owning a shop (4 1/2 at this location), owner Joe Rettke is ready to move on.

Rettke had hoped to sell the business and keep a bike shop in the Roseway neighborhood, but he says potential buyers had a hard time lining up funding. “We tried to sell it,” Rettke shared with me during a visit to his shop on Friday, “It would have been great to keep it going… But the banks won’t loan anything.”

Rettke, now 56, is a native Oregonian whose relatives were present at the historic Champoeg meetings back in 1843. He spent 20 years as a broadcast engineer with KPTV channel 12 and then worked in the HVAC industry, before he “bailed” on that job and started doing what he loves: riding his bikes. One day while out on a ride he said he had an epiphany and decided to become a bike mechanic. He attended United Bicycle Institute in Ashland and then returned to Portland to launch a mobile bicycle repair business. A few months later, he opened The Missing Link at its original location (NE Fremont and 57th) and moved it to Sandy Blvd in 2007.

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Shop employee Nick Schlabach (a.k.a. “Guardrail”).
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The Missing Link, Rettke says, has seen great success in recent years. His location is on one of Portland’s busiest thoroughfares (Sandy Blvd) and it’s also adjacent to NE 72nd Ave which has a wide greenway down the middle and is a popular north-south bike route. “This neighborhood really took to it,” he said from behind the counter, just yards from the buzzing Sandy traffic.

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He probably would have kept the shop going longer, but last year he was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. “That was a big wake-up call.” Faced with that life-altering experience, Rettke felt it was time to get out of the shop. “I decided I needed to do what I did before I had my shop, ride my bicycle.”

If The Missing Link had a specialty, it was old cruiser bikes and hard to find parts. The weekly shop ride was a spin on vintage cruisers to a local bar.

Rettke’s passion is his collection of vintage bikes, and he’s looking forward to spending more time on them after the shop is closed. He’s got about 60-70 old rigs, with the best of them on display in the shop. (We talked a bit about starting up a museum so more of the general public can appreciate them, but that project is bigger than either of us can take on.)

Here are a few of them…

An 1860s “bone shaker”:

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A 1987 Sherrell Classic:

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A very rare 1930s Shelby “Air Flow” (which he’s selling for a cool $20,000):

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And a 1955 Huffy Radio Bike:

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James Edmond was in the shop on Friday, looking for something he thought only Rettke would have. “[Schwinn] Stingrays are my thing,” said Edmond. “I live in North Portland, but I come out here because I like to buy from Joe and he’s usually got what I’m looking for.”

Like many shop regulars, Edmond isn’t happy about Rettke’s decision to call it quits. “I’m extremely sad. This is my shop. I’ve been hanging out here for years.”

— If you get a chance in the next five days, swing by The Missing Link (7215 NE Sandy Blvd), buy some discounted parts, admire the old bikes, and wish Joe a happy and retirement full of fun bike rides.

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Comments
  • adventure! June 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Missing Link is/was a great shop. I bought my beloved Centurion Accordo (which I used to tour the Pacific Coast) from Joe in 2006 when his shop was at 57/NE Fremont. It’ll be sad to see the shop go. Joe is a great guy and the Roseway neighborhood deserves a good bike shop.

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  • Mike Quigley June 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Borrowing money from a bank to buy a bike shop is probably not a good idea. Banks apparently know that.

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    • matt picio June 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      It’s not that. Borrowing to buy and run a 9-year successful shop isn’t normally that difficult, but credit in general right now is really hard to come by. With the instability in European finance, and the real possibility of national defaults, it’s not a good time to try to get large sums of credit – lending is tightening up everywhere. It’s not like consumer credit.

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    • Pete June 25, 2012 at 10:57 pm

      Bailing out banks so they don’t have to lend money is a worse idea.

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  • Scott June 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Joe is a good guy.

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  • blue June 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I bought one of my first Portland bikes from Joe (and his cat Further) years ago. Good health to you, Joe, and enjoy your ride.

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  • Phil Kulak June 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Really sad to see this shop go. It was nice having a bike shop in Roseway.

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  • Caitlin June 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    We will really miss having a bike shop in our ‘hood. Hopefully someone else can manage to open another soon!

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  • dwainedibbly June 25, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Portland needs a bike museum!!

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • Chris June 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    No worries, Bike Gallery is just down the street. Those guys are awesome.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • S June 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

      ಠ_ಠ

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  • Todd Boulanger June 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Perhaps the Roseway Neighborhood & Cruiser folks + the interested owner should start a kick starter effort and see if they can still raise enough to keep it open.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Pete June 25, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Jonathan and Joe – really enjoy the cool vintage bike pics. Best wishes for your retirement Joe, clearly many are sad to see your shop go, but roll happily on yourself!

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  • fasterthanme June 25, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Got a bicycle from him a time ago. Rode it from Tillamook to Gold Beach. Rolled like a charm ’til thieves scrapped it. ’tis sad to see this shop going but it seems to be for the right reasons.

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  • DK June 26, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Joe, cancer is not a death sentence. Keep a positive outlook and enjoy the heck out of your rides.

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  • Ginger June 26, 2012 at 8:11 am

    This has been one of the anchors of our neighborhood and so sad to see Joe & his shop go. And if it’s not going to be a bike shop, what will it end up becoming — yet another office/chiropractor/dentist/auto shop/Vietnamese restaurant? We are well-covered in those areas. Perfect spot for a much-needed cafe or coffee shop, areas where Roseway is severely lacking. Any motivated startups out there?

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  • S June 26, 2012 at 9:42 am

    I’ve ridden more than 6000 miles on the KHS Urban Express I got from Joe in ’06 and it’s still going strong. Missing Link is basically one of very few cool businesses in our neighborhood and it’s sad to see it go. Stupid money-hoarding banks…stupid cancer…hope insurance limitations aren’t motivating his decision (though doubtless that’s a part of it)…!

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • mhickey June 26, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Sad to see this shop go; it’s been a great neighborhood and helps anchor Roseway as a destination for something other than Vietnamese food. Best of luck to Joe- keep the rubber side down!

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  • Ted Buehler June 26, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Need _ more _ small _ business _ loan _ options

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Last of the Mohicans June 26, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Is there any possibility Joe would keep the shop open if someone else were to run it? Nick and maybe a part timer?

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  • Ginger August 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Great news! The shop has reopened under new ownership! Grand reopening family-friendly happy hour 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25!

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