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Hall's Bicycle Shop history shared at Heritage Center
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · October 12th, 2017

The first program in conjunction with a new exhibit at the Heritage Center was presented Sunday afternoon, October 8, by Karl and Kyle Moscrip of the Hall Bicycle Company in downtown Cedar Rapids.

The company opened in 1898 at 111 Third Avenue in Cedar Rapids. This was the first bicycle shop in the area, and it became known as a major headquarters for bicycles, supplies and repairs as well as the owner's enterprising methods. Edward H. Hall was that owner.

The store carried the famous Yale bicycle, a leading high-end vehicle. It also sold Dayton bicycles, both of which Karl said are "long gone now." At that time, bicycles were expensive, running anywhere from $80 to $100.

The Moscrips shared a number of slides from their family album as well as interesting tales about the family and those who worked at the shop.

The bicycle store is now in its 120th year and from what Karl can find, it is the fifth oldest continuously operating shop of its kind in the United States.

One of the first pictures was of Karl's grandfather Walter on a Sunday afternoon ride with a group of men as they went to Mount Vernon to participate in time trials at the track there. The men wore dress shirts and looked much more gussied up than one would expect of cyclists today.

According to stories Karl heard from his father - who heard them from his father - Ed was a cranky old guy.

One of the stories about Ed told of how salesmen would go to the cigar shop nearby and purchase a very expensive cigar to give Ed as they tried to get him to purchase their products.

Ed would accept the cigar, but pocket it, saying he would like to wait to smoke it until after his evening meal.

Later he would take it to the cigar store and trade it for three cheap cigars.

In 1908 the shop moved to 109 Second Avenue SE, where the Alliant Tower now stands. Around this time and into the next decade, Hall carried Harley-Davidson motorcycles. One of the pictures showed Arthur Davidson's signature.

There are many other stories that Karl related. Things were very tough during the Depression.

Because Ed died soon after he retired, his widow let the Moscrip family keep the shop and pay as they could on it. They did all kinds of things to try to raise money and managed to stay afloat.

At one point it became so bad that Walter's wife would go through his pockets for loose change each night. Whatever she found went into the till the next day, oftentimes the only money they had as change.

Robbie, Walter's son (also known as Buddy), became famous in one of Ripley's "Believe It or Not." When he was little, one of the other guys found a baby owl. They kept it at the shop and Buddy worked with it. Among other things, the owl learned to ride on Buddy's handlebars.

Other stories told about the outhouse on wheels, baby chicks dyed in pastels and sold at Easter, and bins of hundreds of bicycle handlebar grips.

In the 1950s the shop rented bicycles. It was a popular pastime to rent a bicycle and go for a ride on a pleasant afternoon. However, they quit the rental business because if people didn't return a bike when they were done with it, the Moscrips had to go find it.

The shop made its last move in 1956, right up the street to 409 Second Avenue SE. A shiny red panel truck was shown in one slide and a sign in the window advertised sharpening skates.

Karl remembers his first job. His dad had him go to the top of the basement stairs and slide cartons of new bicycles down the stairs into the basement. He remembers making 25 cents that first day.

Karl and son Kyle both went to the University of Iowa and hold marketing degrees. Kyle decided to enter the family business with his dad and will be married in December.

Over the 120 years Hall's has been in business, they believe they sold more than 50 bike brands.

One of the final pictures was of a cute little girl in the shop. It was explained that she may very well be the fifth generation to own the shop. Her favorite tool is a hammer, which she is pictured using on a bike on the display along the wall.

The bike business has had boom times and slim times, but we suspect even if the little girl doesn't become the next owner, Hall's Bicycle Company will be around a long time yet.

Following the presentation, people had refreshments, chatted with each other and looked through the rest of the exhibit, called Good Roads: Bicycles, Motorcycles & Automobiles on the Transcontinental Routes. It opened on September 30 and will conclude on April 29, 2018.

Admission is free, thanks to a grant from the McIntyre Foundation.

The Heritage Center's next event will be its 14th annual soup supper on Sunday, October 29.
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