Marion's Service, 132 Main, is Story County's Schwinn franchised bicycle dealer in sales and service. The shop, which is owned and operated by Marion Eckard, handles the famous Schwinn bikes, Murray tricycles and kiddie cars - and services all makes of bikes and toys. Marion, who has been a resident of Ames since he "was 6 months old," got into the bike business six years ago after working as a local bus driver and serving a stretch in the army overseas. In 1950, he bought the shop which was primarily a bike sales and service center. Since that time, he has added more in the line of tricycles, kiddie cars and toys.
Marion's eyes light up when he talks about the world famous Schwinn bikes. In his bike service shop he takes a lot of bikes apart so he knows that the Schwinn company uses only quality material in the manufacture of their products. Quality has always been Eckard's objective. "I want to carry the type of merchandise that I would like to buy if I came into a store," he said.
Marion's Service carries Schwinn bikes in different styles and sizes. In medium weight they have 3-speed corvettes and corvettes with coaster brake, and Schwinn American 2-speed bikes with coaster brake. The store also carries Schwinn 3-speed light weight bikes. Another famous line at Marion's Service are the durable Murray tricycles in 10-12-16 and 20 inch sizes. Lately, Eckard has started carrying Murray police and fire cars; kiddie tractors with chain and pedal drive, and general toys. Marion's Service is also a bike accessory center, carrying such items as bike horns, baskets, mirrors, tires, hubs, tubes, lights, etc.
Marion specializes in repairing all makes of bikes and has the equipment to align wheels, fix flats, align frames and completely rebuild and overhaul the entire bike. The store is also equipped to re-tire tricycles, baby buggies and wagon wheels, and do general work on all toys. For your convenience, Marion's Service has a pick-up and delivery service, phone CE2-3164.
Mr. and Mrs. Eckard live on West Woodland in Ames where Mr. Eckard keeps bikes and trikes in good shape for Norman, 13; Diane, 8; and Randy, 2½.
Blair’s Bicycle Service - Marion’s Bicycle Service Store History
Written July 12, 2009
The business was started by Asa D. Blair of Louisburg, Missouri (guess as to date is late 1930’s or 1940’s). His wife was Ruth Blair and they had one son, Joel. Joel was later killed in airplane crash while serving in the US Air Force. When Asa Blair sold the business, they relocated to Louisburg, Missouri, and entered into farming. Marion Eckard and his family made a trip once a year to visit Blair’s and go over business matters and sales. It happened, as I recall, for the first three or four years. The store was purchased on January 1, 1950 by Marion Eckard on a one year operating contract, subject to renewal after one year. The merchandise was valued at $7,753.05. Capital in cash was $966.68 and equipment was $780.27, for a total of $9,500.00. In consideration of above and use of above values seller received at end of the year 10% of gross profit plus one-half of all discounts on invoices and Marion to receive all monies or stock that is over and above. On January 1, 1951, the contract was renewed for Marion and Chrystal Eckard for the business located at 132 Main Street in Ames. The phone number was 195. The contract was for merchandise valued at $7,000.00, plus tools and equipment valued at $700.00. There were monthly payments of $75.00 plus 5%. The business loan was paid in full on February 1, 1959.
Marion's Bicycle Service featured the Schwinn Bicycle franchise, which at that time was the premier bicycle product in America, manufactured in Chicago, Illinois. Spring Hub Cycle in Des Moines was the warehouse and distributor for Schwinn products, as well as a complete line of parts and accessories. Bob Peterson, the owner of Spring Hub Cycle Company, was a great person to do business with. Trips were made to Des Moines using a 1950 Chevy pickup with an extra wide cargo box (purchased from Bennett-McDaniel Furniture, across the street from the store) which worked very well to transport the bicycle cartons and other large items. Wheel Goods Cycle of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was also a key supplier for Raleigh bicycles, parts and accessories. H. E. Sorenson Company of Des Moines was the prime toys supplier/jobber from which toys were purchased. Although toys were displayed year round, Christmas was the key selling period.
The store also featured a line of toys for boys and girls (stocked up at Christmas time) as well a tricycles, pedal cars, wheel goods, etc. It also featured a complete service department for repairs. In the early 1950’s, the store also carried for a period of time, Whizzer, Travis and Lil Ray motorbikes and motorbike motors attachable to bicycles. Like most businesses, capital to expand the business was in short supply and the banks were very conservative in their business approach.
In the early 1950s, Marion took flying lessons at the Ames Municipal Airport operated by Earl Howard. Chuck Otis was very instrumental in Marion receiving his private operators license for single engine aircraft. Marion also studied for multiple engine license, but didn’t find time or money to complete the course. During this period, Marion also starting back to work for Midwest Transit Company driving school bus in the morning and afternoons to help supplement family income in addition to the store income. Chrystal would work in the afternoon until Marion would return from his afternoon bus routes, usually after 4:30pm. Chrystal would then go home to check on Diane and Randy and prepare the evening meal. Norman was attending high school and when not out for football, basketball, or track would work at the store and help Chrystal with sales, repairs, etc. Norman would also work during summer months at the store and give Marion time to get away and visit with other businesses up and down Main Street, etc. Note: Both Diane and Randy helped with chores and other duties at the store, like dusting bikes, trikes, counters, sweeping floors, and many more things.
A decision was made to sell the business in 1961 to Western Auto Supply, which was located west on Main Street about 10-12 businesses to west of the store. Roy Payer was the owner and Bob Young was his store manager. The business sold December 26, 1961 for the total of $1,899.92 which was value of merchandise on hand. Before selling the balance of the inventory, much had been sold down to maximize the profit that could be obtained by Marion’s Service.
The Schwinn franchise was transferred to Western Auto and remained until 1972 when Nim’s Sportsman’s of Ames obtained the franchise. The feeling was that Bob Young, the Western Auto owner at the time, had let the business slow down. Norman Eckard, Marion’s son, was working for Nim’s at the time of the franchise transfer to Nim’s, and Bob Young also would later be employed by Nim’s, as well as a service technician for Mopeds Midwest, Inc.
So, with Norm, Bob and Nim’s you could say we had three generations of Schwinn experience under one roof. Nim’s sold Schwinn products until 1983-84 when Michael’s Cyclery obtained the franchise prior the sale of Nim’s in March 1985.