30 January 2012


Now here's some real old-school lugwork.

There's a "mirror," if you will, of the front fork pattern on the rear stay, near the seat cluster.

I tried to get a better image of it, but it's in a display window.  That window is long past displaying anything, with all of the clutter in it.

The shop behind that window isn't much bigger than my living room, so they have to use every available space.  

Gray's, on Lefferts Boulevard in Kew Gardens, has most likely been in business for longer than I've been in this world. Bernice,the proprietess is a very sweet woman who's probably a decade or two older than I am.  Her husband passed on a few years ago.

One thing that makes the shop interesting--and a reason why I stop in from time to time--is their stock of older parts.  Bernice knows what they are, and what they're supposed to fit, but she's not a cyclist herself and doesn't claim to be any sort of bike enthusiast.

She is one of those old-time shopkeepers who, on slow days, chats with people in the neighborhood.  Today, a woman who seemed to be a couple of decades older than her was there, and they were just talking about family, the passage of time and such.

It's one of those shops that opened when the neighborhood around it was very different.  At one time, Kew Gardens--in which George Gershwin lived and Paul Simon and Jerry Springer were born and raised-- was full of neo-Tudor houses and had an almost-suburban feel.  I suspect the shop opened during that time.  Later, Kew Gardens was nicknamed "Crew Gardens," for all of the airline personnel who lived there.  

Many of the private houses have been torn down and apartment buildings have risen in their place.  Now, Kew Gardens is mainly a community of Orthodox Jews and emigres from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.  Among them, there doesn't seem to be very many cyclists:  Just about everyone I see riding comes, as I do, from other parts of Queens or from Brooklyn.

What seems to keep the shop in business is that it's near Forest Park.  And the shop is one of the few in the city that rents bikes.  A few cyclists I know are familiar with the shop; apparently, they go there for the old parts and the pleasant atmosphere, even if it's in cramped quarters.  

Gray's isn't what some cyclists would consider to be a "pro" shop, and doesn't try to be one.  It's, more than anything, an old-fashioned family business that happens to deal in bikes. In a way, it's fitting to find an old-school Hetchins there.


  1. Justine, How cool and interesting! A bicycle shop near me, similar to what you describe, closed last year after the owner died suddenly. I loved to go there and just nib around and talk vintage old-school bikes.

  2. For a second there, I thought the Hetchins was locked up to bike rack on the street! That's one problem with bikes like that I guess - can't take them anywhere...

  3. Chris--Old-school bike shops are one of civilization's great treasures, in my opinion. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Velouria--I wouldn't dream of locking that bike up, any more than I would lock up my Mercians. (I've locked Vera up a few times; one of them resulted in the loss of a seatpost and Brooks saddle!) I wouldn't lock up any of your bikes, either.