‘American Pickers’ Star Mike Wolfe Explained How His Old Bike Shop Burned Down

by Amy Myers
(Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

When it comes to starting a business, there are plenty of obstacles to expect, but some are just out of our control. Unfortunately for American Pickers star Mike Wolfe, one of the most debilitating hardships he ever faced happened in the early years of his career – a fire that consumed his entire shop.

Back before his picking days, Wolfe was a bike fanatic through and through. When he wasn’t fixing up or selling bikes in his shop, he was out on the road with a pair of wheels of his own. For a while, he was living his dream. Then, suddenly, it turned into a living nightmare.

“My shop in Eldridge burned down. There was a fire in the apartment above me, and it all collapsed down into my store,” the American Pickers star told Bicycling. “The dip– I bought the shop from had gone on to sell insurance and sold me some crappy commercial policy…. It took me three years to get any money from the insurance company.”

In the few years following the fire, the American Pickers star was “broke,” “wore out” and “beat down.” Wolfe struggled to get back on his feet. He had another shop, but the profits still weren’t enough to make up for his losses.

“Even though the second shop was doing well, I could never get back what I lost. I was always behind,” Wolfe continued.

Enter eBay, the ‘American Pickers’ Star’s Saving Grace

As we know, this was far from the end of the American Pickers star’s story. Ever the resilient business owner, he jumped at the opportunity to change the nature of his shop.

“Then cha-ching, eBay came along and that changed my life forever,” Wolfe said.

Originally, the American Pickers star always thought he would be a bike shop owner. Back then, picking was still just a hobby.

“If you would have told me that I would close my shop back when I was selling 400 bikes a year, I would have said, ‘No way, I’ll be doing this forever.’ It was my lifelong dream. I thought I’d be doing it until they threw dirt on me,” Wolfe explained.

Sure enough, the online bidding forum not only gave him a new avenue to sell bikes but also opened his eyes to the plethora of picking opportunities across the nation. And so, he decided to shift gears (pun intended) and open a different kind of shop.

“But it didn’t make sense anymore, so I had a going-out of-business sale, got a cargo van, a cell phone and a web site and started Antique Archeology. I hit the road in 2000 buying and selling stuff, and have been on the road ever since.”