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One of Knoxville's oldest family-owned businesses is closing its doors after pandemic hardships

Greenlee is the second-oldest bike shop in the United States, dating back to 1899.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A local, family-owned business has been a part of the Knoxville community for more than 120 years. But now, it is closing up shop. The owners said that they would close its doors on November 1.

Greenlee Bike Shop has ties back to 1897, according to Conrad L. Majors, the heir to the shop. It was originally called "Knoxville Bicycle Hospital," and was located at 710 Gay Street.

That shop moved several times over the course of a century. Additionally, it was passed down from family member to family member since its inception.

Now, the historic shop is located at 1402 North Broadway. Majors went into retirement and sold the shop to the Rich family. They owned the lawn mower repair shop next door.

"We didn't want to see it close," Stephen Rich said.

So, they bought a piece of history just to keep it open.

"Customers come in all the time and say, My grandma bought my first bike here," Carol Rich said.

Now, Greenlee's is closing due to a number of factors. The owners said that the bike industry is changing, the supply chain is acting slow and the shop cannot find enough qualified workers.

The shop survived through the Great Depression. However, it was crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's a terrible thing to lose something that has been around as long as this has," Stephen said. 

"COVID, very simply COVID. If we had not had COVID, we would have not had any difficulty staying open," Carol said.

The couple had trouble getting the parts they needed to keep the business open since many of them are manufactured and must be shipped from China.

"People want a specific pedal or specific crank or a specific gear cluster. You can't buy them, you can't buy them. If you don't have them in stock, the chance of getting it is very slim," Stephen said.

The family tried to buy parts from other stores and shops to keep the business afloat. But, ultimately, it was not sustainable. They both believe this supply chain issue could cause a lot of bicycle shops to go out across the country.

"I think people are gonna see a lot more companies that are going to have to go out of business or change what they're doing. Because if you can't get stuff, how do you make enough money to pay your rent, pay your insurance, pay your people?" Carol said.

Greenlee's currently has 11 bikes available for purchase. However, the main reason they are staying open is to complete repairs that customers already brought in.

The Rich family still owns and operates the mower shop next door. That shop will be expanding to fill the building that is currently utilized by Greenlee's.

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