While there are many great local bike shops in Wisconsin, Destination Bike Shops are unique in some special way that makes you want to visit just to soak in the atmosphere for some reason.

This is the second in our series of stories about Destination Bike Shops. In our May issue we featured Milwaukee’s Vulture Space, a funky, cooperative bike shop. For this issue we head south to Cudahy and stop in at South Shore Cyclery, owned by Scott Wilke and Steve Whitford. Have an idea for a destination bike shop we should visit somewhere else in Wisconsin? Let me know via email at dave.schlabowske@wisconsinbikefed.org.

Web site: www.southshorecyclery.com

Address: 4758 South Packard Ave., Cudahy, WI.

Phone: (414) 831-0211

Hours: 

  • Monday – Friday: 11AM–8PM
  • Saturday: 10AM-5PM
  • Sunday:  12PM-5PM

South Shore Cyclery has been around for nearly 30 years now, but you might think it has been open for a 100 years when you step in the door and see the collection of vintage bicycles in the Milwaukee Bicycle Museum section of the shop. The collection is the pride and passion of Scott Wilke, who has been collecting, restoring, and preserving vintage American bicycles for over 20 years. 

The Milwaukee Bicycle Museum section of  South Shore Cyclery.
The Milwaukee Bicycle Museum section of the shop.

In 1988, Scott began his hobby by restoring the Schwinn Traveler bicycle that his mom and dad gave him when he was 10 years old. While looking for the parts to restore the bicycle (his brothers having removed the original 2-speed Bendix kickback wheel while he was away in college) he discovered the world of vintage American bicycle collecting. Scott was immediately “bitten by the bug” and now has hundreds of vintage bicycles in his collection. Many of his favorites are on permanent display at South Shore Cyclery in Cudahy, but he also has some on loan to the Wisconsin Bike Fed and those are hanging in our office on the second floor of the Pedal Milwaukee Building.

Scott Wilke uses an English Wheel to roll out dents in an old fender for a balloon tire bicycle.

The bikes on display at South Shore Cyclery are in a section of the shop called the Milwaukee Bicycle Museum, but if Scott is around, ask him to take you down to the basement where he has many more bikes, thousands of vintage parts and even an English Wheel to roll the dents out of bicycle fenders! 

Upstairs, the collection is mostly made up of American-made balloon tire bicycles manufactured between 1933 and the late 1950’s and Schwinn “muscle bikes” like Sting Rays and Krates the 1960’s and 1970’s. Scott also has a growing collection of really old bikes, including an 1867 Bone Shaker and an 1887 Rudge Ordinary, also known as a penny farthing or high wheeler. One of my favorites was the ???, in which the frame is made of wood and constructed with beautiful steel lugs.

Me with a vintage Sears Spaceliner, similar to my first two wheeler.
Original receipt for a bicycle manufactured in Milwaukee in 1896.
Headbadge and fork springs for 1947 Monarck Silver King Hex Bar Bicycle
Head badge for 1896 Light Running Wisconsin bicycle.
Wooden bottom bracket on a very rare 1897 Old Hickory bicycle, manufactured in Chicago.
Wooden fork for 1897 Old Hickory bicycle
Wooden fork crown with metal reinforcement for 1897 Old Hickory bicycle
Wooden lugs for 1897 Old Hickory bicycle
1940 Elgin 4 Star model bicycle, sold by Sears and made by the Murray Ohio Mfg. Co.
Tank for 1934 Schwinn Aerocycle, one of the most collectable American bicycles.
Generator headlight mounted on a bike with a battery tank headlight.
Tank for Hawthorne balloon tire bicycle.
Deco-style headlight on vintage Roadmaster
Deco-style tank with horn button on vintage Roadmaster
Deco-style airplane handlebar accessory.
“Planes and Trains” head badge on 1941 Schwinn Autocycle.

Scott’s collection is on display and free to public viewing during the regular shop hours. Of course the the shop also has a full line of modern bicycles, with everything you could want from kids bikes to commuters to carbon racing machines to mountain bikes  and fat bikes. The shop is also well equipped for maintenance, repairs and has wide selection of apparel and accessories. Steve and the rest of the crew are all extremely friendly and expert mechanics, so whether you need your vintage planetary geared 5-speed rebuilt or want to fine-tune the shifting on your Di2, can help you with whatever you are looking for. So whether you have a Di2 Crit killer or  Shore Cyclery, they can tune your bike to keep you rolling. 

The shop is located in a art-deco looking building originally built for Woolworth’s “Five & Dime” during the mid 1920’s. After Woolworth’s the building housed a a Drews Variety & Craft store, which specialized in craft supplies and other novelties.  Sadly, after 70 years, in 2007 the last Drews store, located in Wauwatosa, near where I live now, closed its doors for good. In 1984 the building became the new home of Cudahy News and Hobby until April of 2002 when they bought the building and opened the bike shop. 

Co-owner Steve Whitford adjusts a modern “aheadset” on a customer’s bike in for an early season tune-up.

All that history is a big draw for me as I have many fond memories of the chocloate malts at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s, going to Drews for clothespins, paint and pet fish for my daughter and browsing the model cars and magazines at the hobby store. Unfortunately the Woolworth’s lunch counter was removed from the building long ago, but Scott swears sometimes he can   still hear the clanking of glasses and silverware, the hustle and bustle of shoppers moving up and down the aisles, the laughter of children as they discover a new diversion or toy and even the smell of hamburgers and onions on the grill.  

While most of those quaint, friendly neighborhood gathering places on Main Street have been replaced by corporate big box stores on distant strip malls, I am happy to say you can still get that friendly, welcoming feeling of a place you have to force yourself to leave as soon as you walk in the door at Southshore Cyclery. Whether you actually need to buy something or not, I encourage you to stop in and say hi the next time you are in the area.