Rugged Individualist, Class of '34, Pedals Bicycle on Road to Success
Not a bicycle races by Adams House hell-bent for New Lecture Hall that does not bring a smile to Harry Frankel '34, proprietor of the Bi-ex Bike Repair Shop on 3 Bow Street. For it means another member of his old alma mater converted to the bicycle brethren.
"I always hate to buy a bike from anybody. Even if it's a good buy, it just means we've lost another cyclist to the Sport," he remarked yesterday on this conflict between long and short run business principle.
Frankel traces his interest for biking back to his undergraduate days. "I used to deliver CRIMSONS on a bike as a Freshman, and that's when I first saw the profitable possibilities in bikes."
"At that time," he went on, "only two other guys besides me used to ride them, and one was considered a queer and the other was a cripple who didn't walk very well. And I mustn't forget old Professor Julian Coolidge, the math genius. His biking only added to his eccentric reputation.
"Now we sell at least 500 bikes a year, and a good part of those to Harvard and Radcliffe students." Frankel feels there is nothing like biking for keeping the figure trim. On the Crimson wrestling team in 1933 and '34 (he recalls beating Yale), he is proud of the fact that he kept his wrestling weight until he entered the Army three years ago. He now keeps trim by commuting from Newton--on a bike.
He remembers his start in the business as modest enough. He and a classmate, Harry G. Olkin '34, invested all their capital in four bicycles and set themselves up in Brooke Hall, where J. P. Morgan, another great entrepreneur, used to live. A gasoline station opposite the Freshman Union, soon displaced him, and he moved into his present quarters.
Bikes Looked Good
"The bike business might seem strange for a Harvard man to go into now," he confessed, "but in those days, 1934, things didn't look so good. Most Harvard men were working for the WPA, and I decided I'd just as soon work for myself."
When he got into the army, he thought he might quit the business for something else. But since he ended up in England, where bicycle manufacture is a big industry, he decided to corner a small market on importation of now scarce parts. He explains the plethora of three-speed shifts and other hard to get gadgets by his easy distribution of Wrigley's spearmint gum to the stenographers of large British firms. "That put me way up on the list for post-war supply," he declared.
"I could have sold a lot of gum over there in England," he says, "and the market is probably still good. Still, I'd rather be my own boss and run a small business. If I get a flat riding in, I don't have to punch a late time clock."