Friday, April 20, 2012

A little Ben's Cycle Nostalgia - Then & Now

   Larry (Ben's son and Vince the current owner's father) came in today with a handful of old photos and it really brought into light the history of the shop.
   To give you some background as to how the business was started...It was 1928; Ben Hanoski was laid off as a tool and die maker. He couldn't afford the gas to put into his 1926 Ford that someone offered him 100 bucks and a bicycle for it; he couldn't pass it up. A couple days later as he was riding his bike, someone offered to buy it and it all began.
   That next day Ben took a walk to the local salvage yard eight blocks away and picked up another bicycle. It definitely needed work but it didn't take long to get it into tip top shape. He sold that one a couple days later, was back down to the salvage yard the same day and so on and so on....
  It didn't take long for word to get out and Ben had a good business running. He would make trips to Chicago every other week, buying up used bikes to bring back, fix them up and sell them at a reasonable price. Chicago was the bicycle manufacturing capital at the time; having more than a dozen bike manufacturers in the hay day which equated to lots and lots of bikes...






















 For several years Ben's Cycle was run out of the basement of his house in this very same neighborhood. It was right behind the first Ben's Cycle storefront rented in 1938. Two doors down from where we are today...















The 1004 Lincoln Ave shop operated in the same building until the mid 60's when a fire totaled the shop and the building next to it; the shop needed a new home.

The photo below below was taken by Roman Kwasniewski in 1914 and shows the building that would be the future Ben's Cycle. Here it's called The Orient and to the left is Kwasniewski's Park Photo Studio. Kwasniewski documented Milwaukee's Polish South Side for over forty years.


















A couple of the buildings have been rebuilt over the years but the Ben's building has been standing strong. Ben's son Larry, and his brother Roman took over the business in 1956. Roman separated from the business in 1970 to pursue other endeavors.

Ben's Cycle was one of the first Schwinn dealers in Milwaukee. Below shows the shop in the new 1018 W Lincoln Ave location.




































Larry ran the shop for over 30 years and in 1992 his son Vince took the business over. In 1996 Vince bought the dilapidated Riviera Theater right across the street to add another larger retail space. When he bought it, it was being used as a lighting storage space with massive pallet racking from floor to ceiling. He put a lot of effort in the building to get it as close to the original space as he could. A lot of external brick work was needed as well the interior was completely rejuvenated.

Below is a picture of the theater's interior soon after construction around 1920 taken by Roman Kwasniewski.

















This is how it looks now...
















Lots of storage for our retail and online businesses!


More to come.....





Pin It Now!

2 comments:

Little Tiny Fish said...

It's a shame the original lights from the theater couldn't be saved. On another note, I love those old color photographs of the bikes and trikes.

Ben's Cycle said...

Thanks; those are some priceless photos.
Unfortunately the theater lights were long gone by the time we bought the building.