American Pickers star Mike Wolfe is now an expert on all kinds of collectibles, but when he first started out in the professional world, bikes were the only items he had eyes for. Since childhood, Wolfe had always loved to ride and even competed in a few races throughout his life. So, it’s not too much of a surprise that he took pride in his job as a bike shop owner and even became one of the largest dealers in the country.
The American Pickers star always seemed to have the same fire in his belly that pushed him to pursue all of his dreams, no matter where they took him. But in order to reach this level of success in the industry, the future American Pickers star had to make a huge sacrifice and sell his entire collection.
“I had taken a job as a sales rep and one of the shops I called on was for sale. So I traded my old bicycles and everything I had—everything—to get it,” Wolfe shared with Bicycling.
Once he had a shop of his own, Wolfe took off at full speed, quickly creating an impressive reputation for himself.
“I did $150 the first day and took the store from 75 bikes a year to 500 bikes a year the first year. That’s when mountain bikes were taking off. I was the largest Manitou dealer in the country. It was nuts. We were rocking it so hard we opened another store in East Davenport.”
‘American Pickers’ Star Is a Bike Fanatic First, Picker Second
Of course, without his passion for bikes, it’s likely that the American Pickers star never would have discovered the joys of picking. Even though he didn’t know it at the time, Wolfe’s journey to his nationwide reputation for antiques began with his first job at a bike shop in Iowa.
“I was working as a messenger in Chicago, but was coming home [to Iowa] a lot because I had a girlfriend back here. So I interviewed with Bike n Hike in Davenport. I just told the owner that I loved bicycles—that they’re my whole life—and he gave me a job building bicycles in his warehouse,” the American Pickers star explained.
“This was 1987 and I built bicycles all day long. I was building 13 bicycles a day, a lot of Bridgestones. I’d tape all the handlebars. I can tape a pair of handles bars like that [snap!],” he continued. “You should see me. He saw I was a hard worker and put me on the sales floor. I was selling bikes left and right, but all my paychecks went to my bikes. They were like freaking crack to me.”