He's not ready for cycle to end
Glenville bike shop owner
continuing family tradition
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Michael Sangiacomo Plain Dealer Reporter
Once, almost every business in Glenville was owned and operated by
Jewish immigrants. Today, there is only one: Gordon Cycle & Supply
Inc. on East 105th Street.
Jack Gordon was the heart and soul of the business. Some thought his
death at age 92 on Sept. 27, 2005, meant the end of the bike shop,
but the legacy continues though his nephew Louis.
"Uncle Jack died on the same day as his mother died in 1985," said
Louis Gordon. "My grandmother, Anna, and Uncle Jack lived just about
their whole lives in that house. I remember telling her a long time
ago that the family would move her, that she could live anywhere in
the world. She said, 'Fine, then I want to stay right here.' "
Gordon said the shop has lost money for eight years, but he wants to
stick it out.
"My grandparents, Louis and Anna Gordon, bought this house in 1919,"
he said. "They were Russian Jews who fled from the czar. I want to
keep the business going until 2019, so I can say our family was here
for a century. We stayed when everyone else left."
Gordon plans to open a variety store next to the bike shop in the
next few months.
"I'll rent video games, sell snacks, but no alcohol or cigarettes,"
he said. "This will be for the kids."
Gordon's bicycle shop is a Glenville institution, as much a part of
the neighborhood as Superman, who was created by Glenville High
School students Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster just a couple blocks
from the shop.
Gordon has such respect for Superman and Glenville that he is
offering the use of a building on East 105th Street for a Superman
museum, rent-free for the first five years.
"I grew up with Gordon's. Everyone did," said Cleveland Councilman
Kevin Conwell. "Generations of African-Americans took their bikes to
Gordon's to be repaired. Sometimes, Jack would fix them for free if
kids had no money. He was a good guy, a great neighbor and he
employed a lot of local people."
Proof of local affection for the Gordons came in 1968.
"There were riots in Glenville and buildings were being burned down
all over, but no one touched Gordon's," Conwell said. "I never heard
anyone say a bad word about him or his family. They brought nothing
Louis Gordon said his Uncle Jack started repairing bicycles as a
child. In 1925, Louis Gordon's grandfather, also named Louis and a
plumber by trade, enclosed the porch of the house at East 105th
Street and Kimberley and started repairing and selling bicycles.
During World War II, Jack Gordon and Lou's father, Abe, enlisted in
the service. The bike business kept going.
"My grandmother and aunt kept the business going," he said. "My aunt
[Sylvia Gordon] convinced the Murray Ohio Manufacturing Co. to let
us become distributors. So instead of our store getting a couple
bikes a week, we were getting hundreds and sending them to stores
After the war, the new generation of Jews left Glenville and moved
to Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and University Heights.
In 1936, Glenville was estimated as 70 percent Jewish, according to
"Merging Traditions," a book by Judah Rubenstein. By 1950, the
exodus was so complete that "Cleveland in general and the Glenville
neighborhood in particular, were described as 'a city without Jews,'
" the book says.
But Jack and Anna Gordon and their bicycle shop stayed.
Cleveland Councilwoman Sabra Pierce Scott remembers buying colorful,
plastic streamers for her bicycle as a child from Gordon's.
"I nominated Jack Gordon for the Glenville Wall of Fame and I was so
pleased he was able to attend the ceremony," she said. "They are the
last Jewish business in Glenville by far. Greenstein's hardware
store on St. Clair near [East] 91st Street closed up 30 years ago."
Gordon said his uncle had a unique, old-fashioned way of doing
"Uncle Jack was great, a real character," said Gordon. "A guy would
come in and want to buy a $300 bike for his son. Uncle Jack would
argue that he should buy a used bike for a lot less. He said that
customer would come back for repairs for the rest of his life."
Over the years, the Gordon family bought adjoining properties. They
now own five lots on East 105th Street that go back about 200 feet.
The unassuming buildings on the street are gateways to 10 more
buildings in the back, about 600,000 square feet of houses and
Jack Gordon never threw anything away. After his uncle's death, Lou
Gordon found bike merchandise dating back decades, which he now
sells on the Internet.
"It's amazing that adults want to recapture their youth so much that
they will buy things like banana seats they could not afford as
children," he said.
He plans to hold an antique auction at the bike shop on Nov. 3, 4
For further information, contact the bike shop at 216-681-0648.
Copyright, 2006, The Plain Dealer. All Rights Reserved.