Longtime Forest Grove bicycle shop owner Jim Schlegel dies
The Schlegels have been looking forward to 2024.
That will be the year that Schlegel's Bicycle Center marks 100 years since it started business, although it was more of an odds-and-ends shop back then, selling secondhand furniture and appliances too, said Justin Schlegel.
It's now unclear if the Forest Grove store will make it to 100 years old, though, Schlegel said — because longtime owner and operator Jim Schlegel, Justin's father, won't be here to see it.
The elder Schlegel died Friday, April 27, after a brief bout with pneumonia. He was 74.
"All of the sudden, he just got sick, took him to the ER and he was gone," said Justin Schlegel, a Forest Grove High School graduate who now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Jim Schlegel was born in Tillamook in 1943 but spent most of his life in Forest Grove. His father, Milton Schlegel, was a carpenter on a military base near Tillamook during World War II, and his grandfather, Charles A. Schlegel, had started the business that is now Schlegel's Bicycle Center, located at 1913 19th Ave. in Forest Grove. In 1949, the family moved back to Forest Grove, and Jim Schlegel grew up working at the bike shop.
"He's pretty much been a resident of Forest Grove ever since, in one house or another," Justin Schlegel said.
Jim Schlegel served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War for two years, attaining the rank of specialist 5.
Taking over from his father, Jim Schlegel co-operated the bike shop in Forest Grove with his brother Jerry for a number of years until Jerry's own retirement in the early 1990s. Justin Schlegel said his father had recently "semi-retired" from the business after decades of work, but he still kept it open at least a few days per week.
The younger Schlegel spent many of his formative years at the bike shop, just as his father and grandfather had before him, and just as his cousins did.
What stood out most to Justin Schlegel, he said, was his father's generosity of spirit.
"He would give somebody a fair chance. … He would constantly fix up used bikes for kids and then give them to various charitable groups," he said. "If somebody was in dire straits and they came in and needed their bike worked on, and they used it for transportation … if they had a flat or they had a problem, sometimes he would just front them."
That integrity was widely respected.
"They always came back and paid," Justin Schlegel said of customers whose bikes were repaired for no charge up front. "There was a sense of, I guess, fairness and honesty in that sense."
That same generosity was reflected at the First Christian Church in Forest Grove, to which Jim Schlegel belonged. He gave to the church, Justin Schlegel recalled, as well as to church families that needed money for Thanksgiving or Christmas. He was "just a good guy all-around," said Justin.
Jim Schlegel was also a longtime city volunteer, serving on the Forest Grove Parks & Recreation Commission from 1977 to 2005. He received a plaque from then-Mayor Richard Kidd commemorating his years of service, Justin Schlegel remembered.
"He loved the outdoors," Justin Schlegel said of his father. "He loved birdwatching. He loved riding his bicycle. He loved going on hikes. He just loved being outdoors."
It's unclear what comes next for Schlegel's Bicycle Center. No decisions have been made either way as to whether the business will continue after Jim Schlegel's death, his son said.
"It's so sudden that I'm kind of caught by surprise, so I'm not sure what exactly's going to happen. We're dealing with that in the family," Justin Schlegel said, noting that the Schlegels had been anticipating a 100th-anniversary celebration a few years from now. "I'm in discussions with the rest of the family to see what we should do."
The News-Times published a profile on Jim Schlegel and his business in 2014, for the 90th anniversary of Schlegel's Bicycle Center.
"I enjoy talking to people," Jim Schlegel told the newspaper at the time. "Especially when they come back after a long time and say, 'Oh, I'm so glad you're still here.'"
A celebration of life for Jim Schlegel will be held at noon Saturday, May 12, at the First Christian Church, located at 2231 19th Ave. in Forest Grove — just a few blocks from the bike shop to which he devoted so many years.
The family has asked for remembrances in the form of donations in his memory to outdoor nonprofit groups, reflecting his lifelong love of nature, recreation and the outdoors.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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