On May 12, 1973, Jerry Pearce opened the Rainbow Jersey Bike Shop for business for the first time. After showing a Marx Brothers movie at the Plymouth Church the night before, Pearce left behind a hobby and started a career that lasted 45 years. It was a very small start. Jerry and his father Virgil had $5000 to make the 400 square foot space at Hampshire and Downer a retail bike business. Neither of the owners had any experience in retail but both had a passion for bicycles. Over the years RJB has sold many brands of bikes and for a short time in the early Seventies when bikes were in short supply, imported bikes from England. Also in the early days a shop was set up to fabricate custom bike frames under the Rainbow Jersey name. Alan, Jerry's brother, was one of the frame builders as well as the head mechanic. The volume of sales turned out to be inadequate to foster a profitable business and the frame building shop was closed in the early Eighties. Fortunately a substitute was formed in 1977 - Trek Bicycles. It was a local company making quality hand built frames. RJB started selling Treks in 1978 (one of the first customers in the US) The story of Trek is well known. Over the years RJB has employed hundreds of bike enthusiasts and many are still considered friends. Community service and activity has always been part of the RJB mission. When RJB sold cross country skis(1974-1990) Channel 10 had an instructional series on how to use skis with Jerry as the expert. But bicycles were always the forefront in the mind of the owners. Jerry was involved in the initial UPAF Ride for the Arts (there was a promotional lap around the inside of the park at County Stadium before a Brewers game. Jerry participated with the Milwaukee Bicycle Task force set up by then Mayor John Norquist to make Milwaukee a better place to ride bikes. The bike lanes in Milwaukee are a part of the effort put forth by this group. In 1992 mountain bikes were banned from all State trails. This caused a reaction from the bike community and Jerry sat on a committee to bring mountain biking back to Wisconsin. This obviously was accomplished with welcome help from Trek. RJB was an enthusiastic participant in the inaugural Bike to Work Day in Milwaukee (now Bike to Work Week). More recently RJB has supported 2 youth programs with the Shorewood Recreation Department- the First Ride and a Bike Rodeo.
Bike racing has always been a part of RJB. Virgil raced as an amateur just before World War Two (when racing was big in Milwaukee with indoor racing along with professional 6-day racing) and Jerry competed as an amateur starting at the age of 8 in 1959. So, forming a racing team was a no brainer and the Hampshire Cycling Club was born in 1977 (RJB was then located on E. Hampshire Street). Hampshire Cycling Club won lots of races but more importantly promoted the sport by running race events at the rate of at least 2 a year starting in the early Nineties. Also in 1977, RJB introduced cyclocross racing to Milwaukee by sponsoring and promoting the Amateur National Cyclocross Championships in Lake Park. In addition, Virgil served as the Wisconsin State Representative for the Amateur Bicycle League of America (and later the United States Cycling Federation) from 1967 - 1979. Jerry served as Wisconsin Cycling Federation President from 1996-2001. Retail has its ups and downs and the nature of it has changed dramatically in the last 45 years. Virgil passed away in 1983 and Jerry has reached retirement age and thus the reason for RJB closing the doors next month.
We will be starting a going out of business sale Sunday Feb. 18 with everything in the store discounted 30%. The hours for the sale will be: Monday-Closed, T-F 1-7, Sat. 10-5 and Sunday 12-4 (the store will be closed Feb. 12-17 ) All sales will be final. We will stop servicing bikes on March 17 and after that, all tools will be on sale (some have lots of history having been used for 45 years). The last day Rainbow Jersey Bicycles will be open for business is March 28.
It's been a great 45 years - thanks to all and bonne route, Jerry Pearce