Mundelein bike shop owner is moving on -- but store and its name will remain
A Mundelein bicycle shop will live on despite its namesake owner's pending departure.
Ray Ladewig, the founder and operator of Ray's Bike & Mower, 612 E. Hawley St., announced this summer that he's selling the 11-year-old store and moving to Michigan.
The shop has been purchased by Lakemoor-area resident Keith Gerstung. It will continue operating under its long-standing moniker.
"I'm thrilled to see this hanging on," said Ladewig, who's lived in Mundelein most of his life and ran for mayor in 2017.
Gerstung, who's new to the bike and small-engine retail industry, took over Sept. 1 and is enjoying the work -- and meeting Ray's many regular customers.
"The people are great," he said. "They're very, very nice."
Ladewig, 61, launched the business after losing his job with a metal stamping company during the Great Recession. He'd always liked bicycles and small engines and began repairing them at his home.
"I started in my garage, just to see if it was worth doing," Ladewig recalled. "It just took off."
He soon moved into the space on Hawley and has been servicing and selling bikes, lawn mowers, snowblowers and other equipment there ever since.
The business thrived earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, Ladewig said. Bike shops were deemed essential to the economy because so many people need them for transportation.
Now, however, new models and parts are hard to come by because of manufacturing shortages. A large rack near the front of the store that should be filled with new bikes is empty.
Ladewig didn't sell the store because of the pandemic, though. He's long had a fondness for Michigan, and his daughter, Maddie, is a senior at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
So he and his wife, Natalie, are moving there.
"I never thought of moving. I grew up here," Ladewig said. "But you know what? You don't have to end up here."
Rather than opening Ray's Northeast, Ladewig expects to go back to work in the metal stamping industry.
"They're begging people to come back to work," he said.
In a Facebook post, Ladewig expressed fondness for his customers.
"We loved owning and operating Ray's Bike & Mower and certainly couldn't have experienced the magic without the great customers and friends of the business," Ladewig said. "We'll certainly miss everyone (and) will cherish the memories created here."
Gerstung came to Ray's after time as a maintenance worker with Wauconda Unit School District 118. He's got a long history working on engines, including as a U.S. Marine and in the auto business.
"Every job is a new challenge," said Gerstung, 57. "And no job is exactly the same."
Although Gerstung said he'll likely change the name of the shop someday, it'll remain Ray's for the foreseeable future.
"I don't want to alienate customers. They're used to this place," he said. "And that is fine by me. I don't have a big ego."