Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 25th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
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.
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.
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”:
A 1987 Sherrell Classic:
A very rare 1930s Shelby “Air Flow” (which he’s selling for a cool $20,000):
And a 1955 Huffy Radio Bike:
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.