By Joseph Weathered
A fixture in the Milford Green, bicycle sales and repair shop Tony’s Bikes is set to celebrate its’ 25th year in business in 2017. Known by many for it’s iconic, now vintage outside signage Tony’s has been a one stop shop for all riders and has furthered the culture of bike riding for all styles of the sport.
The shop was founded in 1992 by teenager Anthony Arnold, attending high school by day while his father worked the morning shift and working as an advocate and repair man during his after school hours. Their mission was to create a core cycle shop run by cyclists. The name “Tony’s Bikes” came from Arnold answering the phone as “Tony” in order to separate friends and customers from telephone solicitors. As Arnold grew older he later sold the shop to friend and fellow cyclist Anthony Libretti, who continued the shop’s passion for cycling while furthering the shop’s charitable cause by partnering with local non-profits and teaching local mechanical classes. Libretti remained owner of the shop for a decade, selling Tony’s Bikes to long time customer, employee and current owner Mike Macisco, who will be celebrating his 12th year as owner alongside the 25th anniversary.
Macisco represents the generational pull that occurs with local small business institutions, visiting the shop as a teenager and later becoming a part of the burgeoning competition and trick bicycling scene that steadily grew throughout the 1990’s. The shop reflected that do it yourself culture and Macisco grew from an in-experienced but determined young customer eventually working his way through the process of mechanics, riding as a part of the Tony’s Cycling Team and later touring the world as a part of bicycle trick competitions and demonstrations. He always returned to Tony’s though, working as a salesman and repairman while not on the road and transitioning to a full time employee and later owning the shop.
Macisco brings a unique viewpoint to the business as he has had the opportunity to view the shop and it’s history from every angle imaginable. Starting as a young rider, Macisco reminisces about his first time in the shop as “magical for me because I had been riding bikes and there wasn’t really anywhere to go to see the stuff that you’d read about in magazines and Tony had opened up a shop that I could get to without having a license so it was like a pilgrimage. It was like meeting a famous person or a rock star to a guy who was into riding because that was the place to go.”
Pedaling 30 minutes each way to his mecca, Macisco eventually became known at the shop and learning both mechanics and sales as he went along. He was inspired by the then teenage Arnold, looking at his ownership and operating the shop as motivational and as Macisco put it, “it kind of put it all at eye level for me.”
As the shop continued on, Macisco continued to hang out at the shop and as ownership transferred over to Libretti in the early 2000’s Macisco was a fixture, visiting the shop often and becoming a part of the shop’s culture, both in and out of work. As he became a better rider, Macisco later became a sort of consultant for the shop, assisting in finding the newest styles and technology in the sport while also pitching in whenever the shop was busy. For him it was both a welcome opportunity for the store and his own repair needs.
“You kind of take the initiative and become a volunteer because if you wanted your bike worked on there may be several bikes in line ahead of you,” said Macisco. “They saw that I had the ambition and that I would just go for it; I would ask the right questions and say, if i needed my gears fixed and the shop was busy I would go and show someone a helmet so it could free up the time for them to fix my bike.”
In time Macisco became a sponsored, professional rider, traveling all over the world performing in competitions and demonstrations. He remained with Tony’s however, working as part time help whenever he was off the road. Due to Libretti and the shop’s desire for charitable work, Tony’s Bikes began to grow cycling further within the community, taking part in various charity rides, such as the city staple “Folks on Spokes”. Macisco especially felt the desire for inspiration and charity, as his legal blindness in one eye made him very passionate to show others that anything can be done.
“We would do shows for schools, anti bullying, anti drugs, and I would use myself as an example being blind in one eye. I would say that this was something that anyone could do if they put the effort in. I don’t have sight in one eye so theres no depth perception. If someone would say ‘I don’t think so and so could do something because they’re too clumsy’ i’d say ‘you’re talking to the wrong guy’” Macisco laughed.
As Macisco decided to wind down his touring schedule, he combined his relationships as a pro athlete with his advocacy and mechanical knowledge learned at the shop and became a full time employee at Tony’s. Around 2005, Libretti began hinting that he was looking to sell the shop. After inquiring with other potential buyers, Macisco stated his interest to buy the business and according to him, “learned how to do all the right stuff to get a loan with no credit.” He was able to obtain a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration that was insured but with very high interest. After “running into a guy on accident who was an accountant who did small business loans”, Macisco was guided through the process of getting a loan. On the eve of sale, the loan fell through and Macisco called Libretti to break the news.
“I called Tony, after having my business cards printed, and said ‘i’m short $25 grand, i’ve done everything I can, I can’t get the loan.’” said Macisco. “And he apologized and an hour later he called me and said he would hold the loan for me, so a personal loan from him to me. So that’s what made it all work otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten it if he didn’t believe that I could do it.”
Now owner of the shop, Macisco remains true to the old standard set 25 years ago. With a low key and friendly atmosphere, Tony’s continues to be passionate in building relationships and trust within their customers both in buying the right bike and being a full service repair shop. That feeling extends to within the shop, as the history of the store is in full display with everything from old local newspaper articles featuring the shop hung on the walls to in one special case, a classic bike that is a shrine to a long time customer.
“We have a red Olmo that belongs to a guy named Vito Diauto who rode on a national cycling team for the US Marines,” said Macisco. And he at one point had a stroke and he was a regular customer that again, he kind of become part of the family like I had and he would come in and we’d have coffee and we became really friendly with the guy. We had seen his health go kind of south over so many years and this bike was his prized possession and one day he stopped in and said to us ‘I have my bike in my car, I can’t ride it anymore, it destroys me to look at it and can you take it’. And I said that I would hang it in the shop and anytime you want it back you can have it but in the meantime it will be a shrine to you and our friendship. Its a great bike; it shows the lineage of cycling. its a classic and it is an honor to display it. We’ve had it for a number of years and we’ve had several offers to make good money on it. Its a rare bird – everything is top notch and no corners were cut. When people come by and ask about it we tell them the story. Every now and then he comes by and visits and talks about the old days when he could ride. If I don’t hear from him in a few months I’ll reach out. We feel that the bike is part of the shop; it’s like having him here all the time.”
As Tony’s enters its’ 25th year in business, it has become a testimony to small business being a unique customer experience in relation to big business. Still working every day in the shop, Macisco now has his own apprentices working along side him, furthering the generational feel of the shop.
“If I was in my 50’s and I was done with it and drove by and still saw the sign I would feel a great sense of pride, that I was a part of the lineage.”
For more on Tony’s Bikes, visit http://www.tonysbikes.com