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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

‘On The Route’ Owner Wants Someone To Buy North Side Bike Shop Business Before She Retires

On The Route opened in 1971 but will soon close if no one buys the shops in Lakeview and Lincoln Square. Its owner is planning to retire and tour Europe by bicycle.

On The Route Chicago's Lincoln Square location on Sept. 12, 2023.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN SQUARE — The owner of a popular bicycle shop with two locations on the North Side announced this week that she plans to close the business for good in order to retire and tour Italy on her bike. 

On The Route Bicycles owner Joanne McSweeney notified customers of her plans in a Monday email. 

Both the Lincoln Square, 2338 W. Lawrence Ave., and Lakeview, 3144 N Lincoln Ave., locations are closing at the end of October, McSweeney told Block Club.

“It’s with a heavy heart that we are announcing that we are closing On The Route Bicycles on Oct. 31,” McSweeney said in the email. “Effective immediately, everything but labor is on clearance.”

Armando Gallo first opened the bike shop in 1971 near Southport and Belmont avenues in Lakeview under the name La Ruta. When he decided to retire, McSweeney took it over in the 1990s, renaming it On The Route, she said.

After more than than 26 years of being a “hands-on” owner, McSweeney said she decided to put her two shops on the market earlier this year and retire.

Her inspiration was, in part, due to the number of customers who have shared their amazing stories of a “gap year” bicycle trip touring Europe or other parts of the world, she said.

“I just need to go ride around Italy instead of working here one more year,” McSweeney said. 

After the shop closes, she and On The Route’s mechanic are going to do a “shake-down” bicycle ride in Durango, Mexico to test her touring set-up before she goes on her Italian trip, she said. A shake-down ride is a stress test of one’s bicycle equipment before a larger ride or trip.

The route she’s planning for the Italian trip would start in Monopoli, a town on the southeastern coast, and continue along the Mediterranean before stopping in Bianchi, where the popular namesake bicycles are made, she said.

“I want to go to the little port side towns that most people don’t go to,” McSweeney said.

Since announcing the closure, McSweeney had longtime customers reach out, asking if she’s okay or if the business was struggling, she said.

She’s explained to them that she’s been dreaming of this trip for a while and hopes someone will take over the shop like she did from Gallo more than two decades ago. 

“I wish someone would buy [the business]. The lease will be up at the Lincoln Square store and I own the other one. After 26 years, it’s just time for someone else to take it over,” she said. “I raised two kids on this business and they’re now over 18. Which allows me to get out and to go on this trip. I’m ready to take off.” 

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