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After more than 50 years of doing business in Bel Air, Pete’s Cycle is closing its store on Saturday. The remaining locations in Baltimore and Severna Park will remain open, and employees from Bel Air are moving to Baltimore.
After more than 50 years of doing business in Bel Air, Pete’s Cycle is closing its store on Saturday. The remaining locations in Baltimore and Severna Park will remain open, and employees from Bel Air are moving to Baltimore. (Erika Butler/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

After more than 50 years of doing business in Bel Air, Pete’s Cycle is closing its store on Saturday.

The motor sports store’s remaining locations in Baltimore County and Severna Park will remain open, and employees from Bel Air will be moving south on Route 1 to the Baltimore County store at 7511 Belair Road in Overlea.

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“I’m going to miss it, a lot of my friends live in Harford County,” said John Leach, part of the second generation of his family to run the business. “I started there when I was 12 years old. But sometimes change is good.”

John Leach is the youngest active son in the business, one of eight children of the company’s founder Pete Leach and his wife Mary Rose, and will continue to manage the daily business ventures, as he has for the last 30 years, he said. Three of his brothers and sisters in the family business are retiring.

“I’m the last one standing,” he said.

The store’s regular customers were notified by email of the closure, which was announced to the public on its Facebook page Tuesday morning in a letter from “The Ownership of Pete’s Cycle Co. Inc.”

After more than 50 years of doing business in Bel Air, Pete’s Cycle is closing its store on Saturday. The remaining locations in Baltimore and Severna Park will remain open, and employees from Bel Air are moving to Baltimore.
After more than 50 years of doing business in Bel Air, Pete’s Cycle is closing its store on Saturday. The remaining locations in Baltimore and Severna Park will remain open, and employees from Bel Air are moving to Baltimore. (Erika Butler/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

“I’m not old enough to retire, and I still have it in my blood,” John Leach said. “I have too much energy, too much in my blood. I’m still working 50 to 60 hours a week. And I have a lot of really good employees and I enjoy the relationships I have with them every day.”

He will be assisted by three third generation family members as well as numerous long-term employees “who have proven themselves invaluable in their daily operations,” Leach wrote in his letter.

Troy Heininger will be in service, Justin Kidd will be in sales, Brian Klapka and March Schoefield will remain in parts and accessories and Jeff Cruetou and Billy Burnham will stay as mechanical technicians.

For Leach, who now lives in Baltimore County but lived in Abingdon and Jarrettsville for many years, it will be easier to operate two stores rather than three, he said. The Bel Air store was chosen to close because it is the least profitable of the three.

“In later years in life, you want things to be easier and simpler as you get older,” he said.

Leach also wants his Harford County customers to know the business appreciates them.

“We are going to do everything we can to keep those customers as Pete’s customers,” he said. “We thank them very much and want to continue those relationships.”

The Baltimore County location will offer pickup and delivery to make it easier for its Harford customers. It’s 17 miles — about 22 minutes — door to door from Bel Air to the Baltimore County store, he said.

The Baltimore County store is much larger, with a greater variety of motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercrafts and parts and accessories on display, he said, and the service department is larger with more experienced mechanics.

Leach’s dad, Pete, opened the Bel Air business in 1967 on the property at the corner of Atwood Road and Baltimore Pike that he bought from Vernon Jones, patriarch of the Jones car dealerships. They sold Honda motorcycles and Schwinn was their big bicycle brand.

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After more than 50 years of doing business in Bel Air, Pete’s Cycle is closing its store on Saturday. The remaining locations in Baltimore and Severna Park will remain open, and employees from Bel Air are moving to Baltimore.
After more than 50 years of doing business in Bel Air, Pete’s Cycle is closing its store on Saturday. The remaining locations in Baltimore and Severna Park will remain open, and employees from Bel Air are moving to Baltimore. (Erika Butler/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

Pete ran the business, while Mary Rose took care of the eight children, Leach said.

From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, Pete’s sold bicycles in the shopping center at the corner of Main Street, Baltimore Pike and Kenmore Avenue. They got out of the bike business to focus on the power sports end of the business.

ATVs and UTVs are their biggest sellers in Harford County, Leach said.

In recent years, the business bought the properties that were once occupied by Wendy’s and Grove Plumbing. All three sites, which are just about 2 acres, are for sale, Leach said.

He’s going to miss doing business in Bel Air and has lots of fond memories.

What he said he’ll always remember is the original store — a white stone building on the outside and knotted pine everywhere on the inside.

“I remember that knotted pine, the circle dirt track behind the building, the lumber yard,” Leach, who started behind the parts counter, said. “They were good times, just good, good times.”

He recalled Lafayette, the stereo store, across the street, along with Kunkel’s, which has also since closed and moved to Forest Hill. Belair Road was still four lanes — two in each directed without a turn lane — and the parking lot was all stone.

“Bel Air has changed dramatically from the old days, just like everything in the world,” Leach said. “There are a lot of good old customers even to this day when I go up to the store that I remember from the ‘70s.”

Some of them were stopping by this week as Pete’s prepares to shut its doors Saturday, including Andrew Balto of Fallston.

“I wanted to come in here one last time because I came in here as a child,” Balto said Wednesday as he looked around.

He got his first bicycle, his first BMX bike, then his first motorcycle, from Pete’s. He also worked at Pete’s while he was in high school, he said.

“It’s unfortunate; Bel Air is losing another legacy family business,” Balto said. “It’s the heritage of small town America that’s slowly leaving us.”

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