MOUNT AIRY, N.C. — Dock Merritt’s newly opened full-service bike shop in downtown Mount Airy breaks from the norm by offering a three-in-one business.
Merritt doesn’t just sell and service bicycles in his shop, he also offers customers a museum and art gallery.
“Hopefully, it’s all going to work well together,” Merritt said.
He opened Mount Airy Cyclery last September in a building at 144 W. Oak St. The building, which he bought from the nearby Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, was originally a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in the 1950s. Most recently, it housed the Museum Annex.
“We wanted to be in the historic part of town,” Merritt said.
Mount Airy Cyclery has roughly 6,000 square feet with three separate rooms.
When customers enter the building, they will find the bike shop, which sells entry-level to high-end bikes, on the right.
Merritt said he does everything from fixing flat tires to building custom wheels and rebuilding suspension forks.
He sells Bianchi and Surly bicycles, as well as cycling components, accessories and clothing.
The shop just became a dealer for Brew Bikes, which are made in Creston, near Boone, by Steve Garn.
“I bring his (Garn’s) frames in, and we can build anything the customer wants,” Merritt said.
Merritt has made use of the building’s high ceilings for hanging several old bikes he has collected over the years. Others are displayed on the floor.
“I’ve got roughly around 70 old bicycles ranging from a few pre-war (World War II) bikes, really early road bikes and mountain bikes,” he said.
For example, he has a first-production run Stumpjumper mountain bike by Specialized and the first WTB Phoenix single-speed bike.
He has started putting up vintage bicycle posters autographed by well-known cyclists and bike manufacturers, including Greg LeMond, Bob Roll and Ernesto Colnago.
The shop is also decorated with cycling memorabilia collected by Merritt.
The art gallery is on the left side of the building. It currently features photography by Billy Childress, who lives in Raleigh but is from Mount Airy.
“I’d like to have a variety of artists,” Merritt said. “We want to have classes here occasionally so people can take classes on different types of art.”
His goal is to help grow the art scene in Mount Airy.
In the center of the building are barn doors that open onto the museum — a project in progress that Merritt hopes to open in early summer.
“In the museum, there will be old motorcycles, old bicycles — anything wheeled or mechanical,” he said.
He has a variety of American, Japanese, British, Spanish and Italian motorcycles, including a 1942 Harley. Other brands in his collection include BSA, Yamaha, Triumph, Honda, Ossa and Beta.
He also has a collection of old motorcycle magazines, and vintage motorcycle and bicycle parts.
Merritt is planning a section in the museum on Mount Airy, focusing on the the history of the Oak and Market streets area.
The combination of a bike shop with a museum and art gallery may appear a bit unusual, but it’s easily explained once Merritt tells his life story.
“I’ve been working in bike shops for more than 20 years, some up in the Northeast and then down in Memphis and Cordova in Tennessee,” he said.
He has also worked in the motorcycle industry, but these days he primarily uses his motorcycle experience on his own motorcycles.
Merritt and his wife, Alicia, are both artists. Merritt likes to do sculptures, metalwork and woodwork, as well as photography.
His wife, who works full-time as an English teacher at North Stokes High School in Stokes County, is a painter, singer and musician.
As for the museum, Merritt said his wife tells him: “It’s not a museum. It’s just all your toys on display.”
Merritt moved to Mount Airy five years ago with his wife and their son, Dockery. He was familiar with the area because over the years he often visited his grandparents, Will and Amery Merritt, during the summer and on holidays.
“I knew I was going to move one more time, and I knew where I wanted to be,” he said.
Merritt grew up taking hiking, and biking vacations with his parents, Will and Pauline Merritt. Today, he and his wife and son ride their bicycles together.
“I’d like to see more families riding together,” he said.
Betty Ann Collins, the president and chief executive of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, said that “Mount Airy Cyclery is a wonderful addition to the unique and eclectic mix of retail in downtown Mount Airy” and that chamber officials are delighted that Merritt decided to open his shop downtown.
“With his talents and expertise of bicycles, motorcycles and hot rods — all things with wheels — this area is the perfect place to test them out and to enjoy them,” Collins said.
Merritt said that Mount Airy Cyclery has received good response from local people. He has several goals for the next five years.
He said he has worked on professional cyclists’ bikes in the past and has heard them say that they like riding in the North Carolina mountains.
“I want to make Mount Airy a destination point for cyclists,” Merritt said.
He pointed out Mount Airy’s proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains and to Stone Mountain, Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock, along with Old North State Winery and other offerings.
“I’d like to make it a place where people come to take cycling vacations,” he said.