Guerrino Amagliani opened Memphis Motorcycle Co. in 1917. The store’s first location was on Cooper, but it later moved to 190 Union Avenue, on what is now the grounds of AutoZone Park. Guerrino’s children – John, Mary, Mike, Gene, Joe, and Frank – helped out with the business.
Memphis Motorcycle Co. was one of the first Schwinn dealerships, selling Schwinn bicycles, Henderson motorcycles, and Whizzer motorbikes, as well as some Indian brand motorcycles. The store also distributed bike parts throughout the Southeast. The business expanded and thrived, earning glowing reviews like this one from a September 1922 issue of Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated:
During the 1940s, the Amagliani brothers served in World War II while Mary quit school to help keep the family business going. Owning a bike shop was extra challenging during the war – due to shortages, the bicycles shipped to the store often lacked chains or tires.
The Amagliani brothers established Memphis Bicycle Co. at 2575 Summer Avenue in 1951, and expanded the inventory to include Norton and Ducati brand motorcycles as well as wagons, tricycles, lawn mowers, tractor parts, and appliances. They also opened Mt. Moriah Bicycle Co., which only sold bicycles and became known for catering to triathletes.
In 1992, the brothers were inducted into the Schwinn Hall of Fame for their decades of service to the brand. The Amaglianis’ personal customer service made an impact on generations of Memphians, even as business slowly declined in the manner of many privately owned shops. Mt. Moriah Bicycle Co. closed in 2005. (Gene, who had mostly taken over management of that shop, passed away in 2009).
Memphis Bicycle Co. remained open, but suffered increasingly frequent robberies. During one robbery in 2013, the youngest brother, Frank, was stabbed. While recovering, he took a step back from the shop and even closed its doors temporarily. Eventually he decided to sell to Australian transplants Ted Norman and Sue Murray, who have steadily invested in real estate and businesses across Memphis for the last several years. Word spread through the local biking community about a liquidation of Memphis Bicycle Co.’s entire inventory.
On May 16, excited bicycle enthusiasts lined up around the building well before the doors opened for the liquidation sale. Many attendees were longtime customers with warm memories of purchasing a bike at the shop or shooting the breeze with Frank, but even new visitors were eager to check out the vintage treasures inside the shop. One person in line exclaimed, “My eyes popped open at five this morning. It was like Christmas.”
Some parents had gotten their first bikes at Memphis Bicycle Co. as children and were returning to purchase bikes for their own kids.
The array of colorful bikes from the 50s, 60s, and 70s was only the beginning. Various bike parts and baskets, Schwinn paraphernalia, appliances, and office equipment were stacked everywhere, some in near-mint condition.
Even the old vending machine, still partially stocked with snacks, was up for grabs.
The future of the building at 2575 Summer remains uncertain, and the Amagliani family’s time at the forefront of the bicycling community appears to be over. But hundreds of Memphians are now bearers of a piece of their legacy.
Images in this post not otherwise cited are by photographer Katie Willis.