Kucharik Bicycle Clothing will close, ending 70 years of wool production

GARDENA, Calif. (BRAIN) — After 50 years of selling and preaching the benefits of woolen cycling apparel, John Kucharik Jr. is leaving the industry.

Kucharik Bicycle Clothing will close on Thursday, 70 years after his father, John Kucharik Sr., started the business in 1952. Kucharik Sr. died in 2008 at the age of 93.

“I’m going to be 69 soon,” Kucharik Jr. told BRAIN on Tuesday, while adding that his sales had increased since the pandemic began two years ago. “It’s really sad because I have a lot of clients. It’s really sad on both sides. But I promised my wife to travel and do stuff.”

While the showroom and factory at 1745 W. 182nd St. in Gardena will close after Thursday, Kucharik will continue to sell inventory in line until it is exhausted. Kucharik sold the building, which he has called home for 42 years. The new owner will lease the space, he said.

Known as one of the few manufacturers to produce woolen cycling clothing, Kucharik has also become one of the few to repair all fabrics for cycling clothing.

“I don’t make my money on repairs,” he said. “I just do it because I do it. My dad did it, I did it. I do zippers. I do pads and stuff. You got the best suppliers, these guys pay $200, $250, $300 for a short They use it once and they can’t use it again A bike shop won’t take it back so I average probably about 40 shorts – not the mine – and bibs and tights a week with pad replacements, because what are you going to do?? Throw it in the corner and watch it?”

Back then, when he first introduced himself to his dad as “the punk kid that I was”, Kucharik said he would argue with him that lycra and synthetic fabrics would trump wool. . This never happened at Kucharik Bicycle Clothing, but interestingly, young Kucharik admitted that he only converted to wool about five years ago.

“I preached it because I sold it, and I could sell a good story,” he said. “I’m older now. I started wearing wool jerseys, baseliners, and I’ve been riding with those two guys for 30 years. And my other two buddies refused to wear that because the wool didn’t have the spiciness isn’t it feel, doesn’t have the bright colors like the printed jerseys.But it doesn’t matter if it’s 40 degrees or 80 degrees.You’re dry underneath because it’s a fiber natural gas that breathes. It keeps you warm; it keeps you cool. And you can tell people in California 24/7, and they think you’re on drugs. Never hot, never cold.

A natural storyteller and industry name-breaker, Kucharik said one of the things he would miss most was chatting with his loyal customers about the old days.

“Most of these customers are friends of mine. I’m a picker. I like to talk. Back then, when my dad introduced me (to the industry), I remember the first trade show, and It was in San Diego. Back in the Sheraton Hotel. I was 16, I was standing in the grease where the cars were parked, and I looked at my dad and I said, “You’re calling is that an industry? And you want me to come and work here for you?’ There were about 30 sellers there: Schwinn, Peugeot, Bob Hansing with Euro-Asia Imports, us and a few other sellers. I met Mr. Shimano through people. I met Mr. Campagnolo. There is a Mr. SunTour. And all of those people I’ve met. My clients like to hear these stories because they don’t see this. I have seen the industry grow from its beginnings up and down. Howie Cohen from Kuwahara, who developed Nishiki, we used to have dinner with him.”

Saying goodbye to the seven employees who have been with him over the past 30 years will be difficult, he said. “We haven’t hired for 30 years because it’s my family. I don’t need a producer. I don’t need this or that. It’s funny. I tell people : they don’t work for me, I work for They know what to do And that’s what’s so good about it I can’t make money without them.

The emotion of officially saying goodbye will flood Kucharik on Friday, he said, when he hands over the keys to the building.

“I’ll come here, meet the guy (the buyer of the building), and give him the keys, and I’ll probably cry,” Kucharik said. “I was getting emotional just thinking about coming here this morning (Tuesday). I’ve been coming to work at this place for almost 40 years. Every day get up at 5:30 a.m. and come here and get ready. My dad made same thing. It’s kind of a little sanctuary here, and I understand that when I was younger, my buddies were like, ‘Dude, doesn’t your dad stay home with your mom? I mean, even after church on Sunday, we see the car there.

“Same with me.”

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