Matthews Bicycles is Still Thriving After More Than 75 Years
Writer / Seth Johnson Photographer / Michael Durr
For decades, Matthews Bicycles has served the needs of central Indiana cyclists, from training wheels to pro tours. What some may not know about the shop, however, is that it originally spawned out of a bicycle manufacturing business.
“Matthews actually started out as a manufacturer of bicycles, and there’s one of the original Matthews bicycles here at the shop,” says current Matthews Bicycles Owner Nancy Parent. “They bought up all this stuff so that they could continue to manufacture through [World War II]. Everything was going great, but the thing that they totally forgot about were cardboard boxes in order to ship them. They had all this inventory, so some of it went to war relief, and with the stuff that was already made, they started a retail store.”
Originally founded in 1944 by John S. Matthews Sr., Matthews Bicycles offers bicycle repair services, while also carrying an array of brands that include Specialized, Trek, Jamis, Electra, Bianchi and Haro.
Between 1944 and 1974, Matthews Bicycles had various locations around Indianapolis at 34th and Central, 38th and College, and 38th and Sherman, before eventually finding their current home on Pendleton Pike.
“The land was purchased and the store was built to be a bike shop,” Parent says of the Pendleton Pike location. “It was started in ’72 and finished in ’74.”
In 1982 Parent became a part of the Matthews team, after a friend introduced her to John Matthews, who asked Parent if she’d like to invest in his business. With a background in sales, Parent agreed to come on board, although she admits her knowledge of bicycles was very limited at the start.
“I had to learn all about everything from brakes to derailleurs,” she says. “Growing up, we just had little coaster brake bikes, so I didn’t even really know how to shift or anything. I had to learn it all.”
When she first came on with Matthews, Parent explains the brands the shop carried were far different from what they carry today.
“You had Raleigh, Nishiki, Centurion and Schwinn – all of these brands that just aren’t really even here now,” she says. “Trek was just a baby in the business. I think they started in ’76 or ’78, so they were just coming into play. Specialized started in ’74, so those two were like the new kids on the block.”
Parent also explains that since those early days, Matthews Bicycles has gone from being a neighborhood shop to a Midwest destination.
“Now, people come from all over,” she says. “It’s nothing to have clients from Terre Haute, Louisville, South Bend, Batesville or Richmond. I think more than anything, now bike stores are destination stores.”
While some sectors of retail have faced challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, Parent says business has been booming at Matthews Bicycles. In particular, she says the shop has seen a swell in service and repair work.
“This year with COVID, it’s just been crazy,” she says. “I think people were dragging bikes out of their back sheds and barns. They came in with spiders and everything on them.”
Additionally, she says the store has recently sold more children’s bikes than usual.
“We’ve sold so many kids bikes this year, which was great,” Parent says. “Kids had been in the house too long on their computers, and I think they probably got sick of it since they had to do online learning.”
While 2020 saw a surge in sales, Parent says the shop’s bicycle distributors are bracing for more of the same in 2021.
“We sold through all of our bikes and couldn’t get any more,” she says. “Now, we’re getting our supply built back up, and we’re looking good again. For next spring, all the distributors are like, ‘You better get your bikes now because they’re going to be in short supply again.’”
When it comes to the staff at Matthews Bicycles, Parent aims to foster a welcoming environment, with employees who know your name and what bike you ride upon walking in the door.
“The employees I’ve had in the last 10 years are probably the best that I’ve ever had,” Parent says. “It’s very friendly. You want to go where everybody knows your name, and it’s like that here.”
Matthews Bicycles is located at 7272 Pendleton Pike in Indianapolis. You can reach them by phone at 317-547-3456, or visit their website at MatthewsBikes.com.