After 50 years working with bicycles, Prospect Bikes owner closing his shop
Bill Schmoldt was 15 when he started working at Prospect Bikes and was tasked with changing flat tires and learning other parts of the business. Now, 50 years later, he is retiring from the same bike store.
After a short stint in the corporate world after college, Schmoldt bought the business where he worked as a teen. After nearly 39 years running the operation and many industry changes, he is closing the shop at 506 E. Northwest Hwy. in Mount Prospect.
"It's sad. It's just not turning the dollars and making the money anymore," said Schmoldt, who is liquidating the inventory and expects to close at the end of the month.
Schmoldt, 65, says the internet is the biggest problem he has seen. As with other brick and mortar businesses, Schmoldt finds that people often come in and gain all the knowledge about his products and then check the internet to find a better price. "Sometimes they are checking out pricing on their phones right while they are in the store," he said.
The Des Plaines resident said it was also a challenging summer. "We have a lot of fair-weather riders in the Chicago area. And the weather was not good this summer," he said.
The holiday season also has become difficult. About 15 years ago, Christmas used to be a big time for sales and he would sell about 100 bikes in December. Now he sells between 15 and 20 during the holiday retail season.
When the business was thriving, Schmoldt had 15 employees and they were busy selling and repairing bikes. He now has one full-time employee and four part timers.
Schmoldt says he owns the building where he operates the business and will continue to repair model trains, a small part of his operation that heats up at Thanksgiving and Christmas. He will continue to do some internet sales with this aspect of the business.
The entrepreneur said he has always been very mechanical and has enjoyed his career. When he was 15, he accompanied his mother to the bike store to help her load his brother's bike into the car. He recalls that his mom asked the people at the shop if there were any job openings for her son. Schmoldt's career in the industry had begun.
He grew up in Arlington Heights and went to Prospect High School and then Western Illinois University in Macomb. He briefly worked in the corporate world, then for another bike shop until, 39 years ago, he discovered Prospect Bikes was for sale. The business has been around for 60 years. He and his wife, Betty, refinanced their home to purchase the business.
Schmoldt said his wife, who works for Pepsi, is encouraging him to retire. "I'm looking forward to retirement," he said, adding that he hopes to travel, play his guitar and ride his bike more.