The Cambridge Antique Market in Lechmere houses a collection of quirky treasures, but the curious customer will find that its secrets aren’t limited to the typical furniture-and-jewelry variety. If you venture into the basement, amongst the furniture and posters, you will find Vin Vullo, Ed O’Brien, and the scores of vintage bikes that they restore and sell under the name Menotomy Vintage Bicycles.
It’s a well-known fact that Boston is home to a thriving biking culture, but these guys aren’t about the spandex and the fixed gears. “That’s not us at all. We sell to the commuter, people that want to get to work,” says Vullo, who has been in the business for around 50 years. Vullo and O’Brien originally started out selling antique bikes, but converted to reconditioning and selling vintages out of popular demand. “The chromoly frames of the ‘70s are just as good as those of today,” says Vullo as he examines a ‘Raleigh’ bike, the model most desired by his clientele. These bikes are nothing elaborate, but their basic appearance and structure are perfect for those of us that just want to get back to good old fashioned biking sans frills. But it’s not just about the bikes; one of the most appealing aspects of this vintage investment is its affordability. Since most are priced between $200-$300, they cause a surprisingly light dent in a customer’s wallet; with Boston’s large college crowd, there’s bound to be more than a few appreciative souls.
The space itself isn’t intimidating to those of us who previously didn’t know a fixed gear from a three-speed. There’s usually a bike in the process of being restored in their workspace; when the guys aren’t working on them, they’re chatting with the people who have wandered in, either in search of the perfect bike or out of curiosity. It’s a friendly atmosphere with a Pandora station blaring out of the speakers (Fitz and the Tantrums radio when I visited) and Vullo or O’Brien ready to personally help a customer find the ideal bike.
In the fast-paced, ever-more-stylized world of biking, Menotomy rides its own wave. While it’s so much easier to take parts out of a box and assemble today’s bikes, everybody’s doing that. “It’s another thing to take a rusty-ish thing and turn it into something. We’re keeping them [the bikes] out of the landfill,” says Vullo. “It’s a lot more work, but it’s green!” If you don’t mind three gears on a bike and just want a cheaper way to get around Boston, Menotomy’s the place to go. And really, who doesn’t love the feeling of coasting down a hill at full speed, feet off the pedals? Fixed gears don’t allow you to do that!
For more information on Menotomy Vintage Bicycles and directions to the store, visit their website.