- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - It’s been one-and-a-half centuries since Kirk’s Bike Shop opened in downtown Muncie - and since Muncie was first incorporated. A lot has changed, both for the city and for the business itself. But through it all, the shop has done its best to remain a local icon.

Early in its history, Kirk’s was a booming downtown store located near the Main and Walnut streets intersection.

The store’s in the same block as it originally was, though it now sits on the corner of Jackson at Walnut. The old Kirk’s can be seen in a picture on the counter of the current shop; it’s framed for the world to see, alongside a couple other photos. Each serves as a portal of sorts into the store’s history.

Kirk’s was more than just a simple bike shop back then; it sold “everything but elephants,” as one of the shop’s old exterior signs proclaimed. Customers from all over would come in to not just get bikes, but gear for the outdoors - things like tents, sleeping bags and a cacophony of other items.

Now, it’s basically all bikes at the store, which returned to downtown several years ago after a handful of re-locations to at-those-times booming parts of town.

Even now, though, the staff at Kirk’s Bike Shop operates much in the same way it did on day one, owner Jason Allardt said. The personnel are still professional, helpful and well-trained. They still know their products. And they still say “Welcome to Kirk’s!” when you walk in the door.

“We have a great team here,” Allardt said. “We offer top quality products and we give the best service available. You don’t find that at big (box stores).”

Despite all the advances in technology the biking industry has seen over the years - gears, speeds and design changes galore - staying true to the roots of this 150-year-old business seems to matter just as much as the products lining the walls.

“(When I bought Kirk’s), I bought the legacy that came with it,” Allardt said. “It’s the name people recognize, and it’s the name it’s always been known by.”

Allardt bought the shop in 2010 and is himself a bicyclist, though he’s quick to acknowledge he isn’t as into it as a number of his customers. He has serious cyclists, families, and amateur riders in his store all the time. And he’s eager to help each of them.

After all, the customers are the reason Kirk’s is still standing today, he said.

“People who want the best … they come here,” he said. “We offer the brands that are the best … the quality of the products here are going to last (for a very long time).”

Kirk’s moved from its Tillotson location in 2003, Allardt said. It was then that the shop reverted to its original name from B&B; Kirk’s Bike Shop, which it had adopted in 1999 after merging with another shop.

While it’s unclear how the next 150 years of Kirk’s history will unfold, Allardt said the shop is certainly part of what’s helped bicycling gain traction in the area again.

“It’s because of what the community leaders put in that we have this now,” he said. “The (fact Cardinal Greenway) is so popular is because the local leaders put so much into it. We love being part of the bike community here, and it’s great to be involved.”

The Cardinal and White River greenways have been major parts of the revitalization of Muncie’s bike culture, too, he said.

“They’re putting bike lanes in around town, and that’s important, I think,” Allardt said. “When you have (access) to paths like these it’s important to put them to good use.”

A group of cyclists will take the Cardinal Greenway down to Richmond - and back - as part of the Solstice Ride. And while the ride isn’t officially part of Kirk’s 150th anniversary celebrations, the shop scheduled its events to coincide with the event, Allardt said.

“We’ll have door prizes here and then we’ll have samples of beer from New Corner Brewing,” he said. “We want to help them get their name out there through this.”

While June 19 may not be the “real” date Kirk’s opened back in 1865, Allardt said it’s still cool that his shop is as old as the city.

“We’ve been here through it all,” he said. “It’s a great thing when you still get families who have children … to hear (parents) tell their kids about what it was like when they came here as a kid - that’s a great (moment).”

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Source: The (Muncie) Star Press, http://tspne.ws/1LkEUlZ

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Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

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