Stewart's Bikes & Sports strolls down memory lane

As all hockey players and families know, finding the right equipment can be expensive. Thanks to the Stewart family, Duluth has had a solution to that issue for 50 years.

Dick Stewart Sr. opened a little hardware store in 1906 on Third Avenue West, but locks and keys were just the beginning for a shop that eventually made its mark on a city well-known for its neighborhood rinks and its love for hockey.

As the business grew, Stewart’s son, Dick Stewart Jr., began to get involved with the store, but his fascination for sports pushed his father to start offering his customers more sporting goods equipment.

In 1956, Dick Stewart Jr. opened the first Stewart’s Wheel Goods, eventually changing the name to Stewart’s Bikes & Sports. This became known by many as the place to go when it came to shopping for sports gear, as the business sells a variety of goods but focuses on bikes and Stewart Jr.'s biggest passion, hockey.

Ralph Bellamy worked with Stewart Jr. for 27 years, starting in the early ‘70s. There was one specific thing that set this local shop apart from any other store, Bellamy said.

“Customer service was always Dick’s big thing, and they have continued that on to this day,” Bellamy said. “If a player was headed out of town for the weekend and had broken equipment or needed a quick repair, Stewart’s made sure to get the player taken care.”

Stewart Jr. retired in 2000, but his love for hockey continued well past his days of owning his store. The local icon was a season ticket owner to the UMD men's hockey team where he was recognized by the student section in the middle of just about every game with a chant, “We Love Dick!”

Stewart’s Bikes & Sports loyal customers still get the personal service Dick brought to the sporting goods industry in Duluth; customer service wasn't the only thing that helped the sport of hockey to grow throughout the city. Stewart’s is well-known for sponsoring teams and players who couldn't always afford equipment.

“Mr. Stewart was a big supporter of youth hockey,” said Steve Meyer, current owner of Stewart’s. “That’s one of the things we think is important in carrying on the tradition he’s started, and that’s why we’ve continued to sponsor teams.”

Currently, Stewart’s Bikes & Sports sponsors a Peewee A team in Duluth, but the store has sponsored multiple teams in the past, even sponsoring some baseball teams.

When Stewart Jr. retired, he went through all the pictures he had of the teams his store had sponsored in the past.

“Just the pictures when we took over that he had of all the teams he has sponsored, it is pretty impressive,” Meyer said.

Meyer said that even though he has only been there for the past 12 years, he has already begun to recognize parents who had been players themselves not long ago, bringing in their sons and daughters for their first bike or set of skates. Those players who may be coming in to get fitted for skates will often sit in the same chair that their parents sat in for their first set of skates.

“We still use the same chairs that I know I was fitted in way back; those are around 40 years old,” Meyer said.

Stewart’s Bikes & Sports is now located in West Duluth on South 29th Avenue West next to the Duluth Heritage Sports Center and Clyde Iron Works. According to Meyer, the flow of business today goes along with the flow of the Heritage Center, and hockey season is typically a busy time for the shop. Although the location has changed several times since the business was founded, the local, friendly feel hasn't changed.

“Seeing the kids when they get set up for hockey for the first time or the young kids when they are getting their first bike, their eyes just light up," Meyer said. "It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty cool.”

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