Larry Ehrhardt has been in the bicycle business awhile -- since 1958 to be exact, when he was in the fifth grade and his father started Ehrhardt's Schwinn in Tempe.
After taking over his father's business, he started selling Schwinns, and now remembers one customer in particular: a man who bought a classic model decades ago for his four children to use.
Fast forward to the 2000s. The man returned with the same, now-vintage Schwinn and sold it back to Ehrhardt, adding another piece to his ever-growing collection of retro bikes and accessories. When Ehrhardt showcases some of those models today, built between 1949 to 1979, he swells with pride.
"This is the holy grail of paper boy specials," he says of an electric blue Schwinn from 1964, complete with original parts.
His collection doesn't stop at complete bikes, though. Ehrhardt keeps everything from bike horns to ancient Schwinn sales receipts and, although never a paperboy himself, even found some yellowing copies of the long-defunct Phoenix Gazette to adorn his favorites.
Other collectors will sometimes drop by and take a peek in a glass case at Ehrhardt's store just to see what an old watch, given to Schwinn dealers in the 60s, looks like. He estimates there were only a few hundred made, and makes note of the orange "not for sale" sticker on it. Some of the objects in the case might have gone for $10 dollars at one point, but can now be worth hundreds, and Ehrhardt has an eye for deals.
Now 64 years old, Ehrhardt says he's looking to retire in a few years, and might sell his shop. Looking back, he wishes he'd had the foresight to have saved a few bikes from his early days.
"You're not interested in keeping bikes, you're interested in selling bikes," he says of when he first took over the business.
Still, shop or no shop, he'll hold on to his collection and maybe even add a few pieces.
"I know all this stuff, you know?" he says, "It's fun."
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