BERWYN - So Pa, this guy’s got this bicycle, see? And if you give’s him a nickel, he’ll let you ride it for an hour, see? So can I have a nickel, Pa?
What started out as a one-hour bike tour for a nickel in 1939 has grown into a veritable bicycle dynasty covering three generations.
Welcome to Dan’s Bike Shop in Berwyn: Here can be found the latest in two-wheeled, or even one-wheeled, mobility.
There’s racers, cross-country trek bikes, mono-cycles, teeny-tiny tot bikes and even trick bikes for the young and fearless. That’s not to mention every possible accessory, from bells to baskets, helmets to patch kits and more.
At the helm is Dan Schwanderlik, who learned and later took over the business from his father, Carl, in 1980. Carl started the business almost 75 years ago in Chicago as Carl’s Bike Shop before it moved to 6715 Roosevelt Road in 1989 as Dan’s Bike Shop.
“He started out with one bike,” Schwanderlik said. “His friends wanted to try it, so he charged them a nickel an hour. Then, he bought a second bike.”
There is a vintage Schwinn Black Phantom from the 1950s hanging just as reverently from the ceiling as the Kitty Hawk at the Smithsonian. There also is a vintage shaft-driven bike – with wooden rims — hanging above the repair shop.
Like the Kitty Hawk and earlier machines of all types, the contrast between the old Schwinn and the bikes in the showroom is almost startling. Yes, there’s a frame, two wheels, a seat and a set of handlebars, but saying they are the same, would be like comparing the Model T Ford and Lamborghini Countach, because each has four tires and a steering wheel.
The 67-year-old bike master picked up the skills necessary to repair bicycles from his father, who was self-taught. And it’s the ability to fix anything with spoke wheels and handlebars that sets the Schwanderlik family apart in the bicycle world, said Schwanderlik’s wife, Sharon.
“I think our niche in the market is service,” she said. “We’ll repair anything.”
But just as the bikes have become more specialized, so have the repairs.
“When I was a kid, you could take parts off one bike and put them on another,” Schwanderlik said. “You can’t do that today.”
Dan Jr., the third generation of Schwanderlik’s in the business, said he has been working on bicycles practically since he left the womb.
“I went into the Navy for two years and said that’s not for me, so I came back to the bike shop,” the Brookfield resident said.
Buying a bicycle in a bike shop tends to be pricier than buying it from a big box department store, no doubt. At Dan’s, bicycles for toddlers start at $125, then move quickly to more than $1,000 for the specialty bikes. In fact, you could get a bike for about $100 at the big box store that looks like a thousand buck bike.
“There’s nothing wrong with those bikes,” Schwanderlik said. “They keep me in business by fixing them. We cater to everybody. I don’t care where you bought it from; I’ll repair it.”
Schwanderlik said people who are looking for a bicycle these days tend to do their homework.
“A lot more customers are educated [about their purchase] when they come in for a bike,” he said.
Schwanderlik said just as he took over the business from his father in 1980, he is in the process of handing it over to Dan Jr.
“He has a son named Dan, too,” Schwanderlik said.” Hopefully, it will be passed down to him.”