Sunday, Oct 22, 2017
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

COMMENTARY

Peddlers and pedalers gather at swap meet

“It’s Christmas every day in the bicycle hobby,” Lisa Trombley said as she and her husband Harvey prepared for this weekend’s swap meet.

The Trombleys own and operate Memory Lane Classics in Grand Rapids, Ohio, which is open year round but becomes a center of activity at its annual meets, which draw bicycle hobbyists and collectors from several states and occasionally other countries.

Recently a visitor from Kuwait visited the shop. I attended the April Swap Meet and met people from Texas, Pennsylvania, Chicago, and Puerto Rico, each of whom had a fascinating interest in bicycles old and new.

This weekend, Lisa and Harvey expected 600 visitors and at least 60 vendors to set up their wares in rented spaces on the spacious property on Third Street. Like any swap meet, the Memory Lane event is designed to buy, sell, and trade merchandise in varying conditions.

Lisa calls the swap meets just plain fun and a reunion for visitors who are regulars on the bicycle circuit. She compares the meets to Christmas because everybody is happy, reliving their childhood bicycle days.

“I love to see their faces light up when they see a bicycle that is like the one they had as a child,” she said.

There are some real beauties for sale, like the Schwinn Corvette from the 1960s and the pre-war Elgin Bluebird, which Lisa says is “the Holy Grail in the hobby.”

Hobbyists who want to take a break from pedaling are drawn to the 1949 Marman motor bike, which offers a choice: pedal or motor. The shiny Marman bike is in original condition, but that is not the case of many bikes at Memory Lane and those that the vendors haul for sale.

The saying “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” is true in the piles of parts, as hobbyists attend the swap meet looking for rare tires, seats, and handlebars.

One shopper was delighted to find an accessory that holds a baseball bat. Another hard-to-find bicycle add-on: brackets designed to hold tennis rackets. Other collectors are delighted with an original fender, a handlebar, or just a bell.

Lisa reminds that once upon a time bicycles were major forms of transportation that took people to work, to school, to church, and to sporting events.

Her first bike was a throw away she found on a major trash pick-up day in South Toledo. Her discarded bike needed tires, pedals, and other accessories to get it ready for the road.

She had heard about a place called Memory Lane in Perrysburg. Harvey and the late Larry Busch, operated the shop in Perrysburg before moving to Grand Rapids. With their guidance, her trash bike was restored, but she kept returning to the store. Lisa is a licensed optometrist, but the bicycle business intrigued her. 

“I started hanging around there,” she recalls.

As they say, the rest is history. Lisa and Harvey were married 17 years ago, and she is a mainstay in the business, including the ongoing shipping of parts that accounts for 95 percent of the business.

“We ship parts all over the world,” Lisa says. “Language has never been a barrier. We always find a way.”

There was one glitch concerning a tire that was shipped to Russia, but it was corrected.

When Russian security became suspicious of the tire from America, they poked holes in it. But the American woman who had ordered the tire plugged the holes.

Bicycles that were restored at Memory Lane are displayed at several museums around the world, including Schwinn History Center, the Bicycle Museum of America, the Bicycle Museum in England, and Hammacher Schlemmer.

Bicycle parts in all sizes and for any old and new models are displayed in cases in the main part of the Memory Lane building, but Lisa and Harvey reserve a smaller room as a museum. In addition to the adult-size vintage bikes, they have added a collection of tricycles.

And who doesn’t remember graduating from the secure tricycle on four wheels to balancing on a two wheeler? That’s a fond memory that keeps bike hobbyists buying selling, and trading — and riding.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: poseypowell@aol.com.

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