A Little History of the Shop and the People Behind It
San Pedro is a unique town at the end of a peninsula and in the heart of the Los Angeles harbor. You don’t just drive through San Pedro, you must go there. Hard working and family oriented Mexican, Italian, and Yugoslav families make up most of the population of this picturesque and very diverse town.
Back in the summer of 1973, Kuzma (Matty) Domancich, a gentleman who was born and raised in San Pedro, opened the doors of The Bike Palace for the first time in its current location. Matty’s background had been in the automotive industry, where he served as a mechanic and salesman, but most recently as an owner of a Shell service station that was directly across the street. His expertise as a mechanic made Matty enjoy the bicycle business immediately. Matty’s enthusiasm and genuine interest in each customer set the standard that we try to match each and every day.
My cousin Scott turned me on to road racing bikes in the summer of 1972 when his family moved in next door to mine. My Uncle Jack had bought my cousin a Torpado road racer. I wanted a Schwinn Varsity but my cousin convinced me to ride an old Olmo Special racing bike that my father had bought for my brother Sam back in 1965, for $50.00. I was 14 years old and Scott was 12 and the bikes gave us independence beyond our wildest dreams. He and I would ride around the Palos Verdes Peninsula and up and down the coast of the South Bay, stopping at every bike shop along the way. The Olmo was taken apart and painted more than once over the next few years and Scott and I learned a lot about bicycle mechanics during that time.
In March of 1974, Matty, who happens to be my godfather, gave me a job helping out around the bike shop. Dave Summers was Matty’s head mechanic at the time. Dave took me under his wing and taught me the feel of the tools and the workings of each and every bicycle component. Dave taught me to lace wheels, which I did. As the business grew, so did my enthusiasm for it. I knew I was doing something I truly loved on a regular basis. Back in those days it was cheaper to build your own wheels than to buy them built up. Raleighs were the shop’s main line. Centurion, Azuki, Nishiki, and KHS were added along with Schwinn in the early 1980s. For a short period we also sold and repaired mopeds. Puch and Tomas were the lines we sold.
In 1979, I decided to attend Oregon State University and left the business behind for the first time since I started. Each Christmas, though, I would help out around the shop. When I returned to San Pedro in 1981, I tried my hand at real estate. After a few lean years, I had the opportunity to learn about my father’s trade. My father, Tony Jabuka, was a greatly admired general contractor before he retired. The job happened to be directly across the street from The Bike Palace. My uncle Nick, the contractor on the job taught me what he could, during that yearlong project. Staying organized and one step ahead were lessons I still use every day. I gained an immense amount of respect for him and my father that year.
As the job wound down, another opportunity arose. Matty was looking for a partner at the shop. With a lot of help from Matty and my father, we came to an agreement and in March of 1984 I became a partner in The Bike Palace. My mechanical skills and Matty’s business sense and selling skills made us a good team. We both enjoyed sports and spent much of our time listening to games on the radio. As business grew, we had to hire more mechanics to help with repairs. In the repair room we always had lots of fun. Many workers came and went. Here are a few I have fond memories of: Sze Chaung, Eric Luk, Steve Collister, Ryan Hamilton, Adam Olson, Kirk Shandrew, Gary Weiss, Steve Turner, Ron Morgan, Raymond Medak, Dave Nelson, Sean Watkins, Duane Hamilton, Tony Accetta, Paul Anvar, Hector Lopez, Albert Martinez, David Pratt, Alfred Sanchez, David Navarette, Jose Aguilar, Jack Druskovich, Mario Rivera and Frank Tyfalt, Anne Squires, Bobby Sutrin, Eugene Hernandez, Todd Ornsburg, Johnathan LaRiccia, Chris Correa, John Menzies, Greg Gobel, Carmelo Figueroa, Cora Webber, Tony Degler, Chris Landers, Craig Glaspell, Autumn Baldwin, Mary Chavez, Candy Rapoza and Kay Scarpelli. I am sorry I didn’t include everybody. I still see many of these characters regularly and many are still in the bicycle business. With a lot of help from my great crew, we still offer the same unparalleled service to each and every customer.
In the summer of 1987 Matty decided to retire. It was now all up to me, to continue to give our customers the care Matty had nourished into the business over the past 14 years.
Now 19 years have passed. So much has changed and so much is still the same. We carry so many more different types of bikes and accessories than in the years past. Our selection of bikes is the largest in the Harbor area. There are so many more classifications of bikes today. For instance, comfort bikes, which are a cross between a Mountain bike and a cruiser. A very upright riding position with lots of easy gears and a suspension seatpost. We try to carry most every type of bicycle, for most any type of rider. So that includes tricycles for infant or tricycles for adults. BMX, Freestyle or Trial bikes, those are so popular with boys from 7 to 30. These are the X-Game bikes. Beach cruisers that now come in every flavor of the rainbow. They are definitely very trendy. Mountain bikes have evolved into many different classes. Hardtails, cross country full suspension, freeride, and downhill are just a few. Road racing bikes are extremely light, efficient machines. Some models weigh less than 16 pounds and most less than 20 pounds. Comfort road models have become popular with the individuals who ride for exercise and an occasional century (100 mile ride). With a lot of help from my great crew, we still offer the same unparalleled service to each and every customer.
We try to promote the love of riding by riding as much as possible ourselves. On Saturday mornings there are many groups that get together to ride, including the Donut ride and the Doctors ride. Mountain biking on the Palos Verdes Peninsula has never been as challenging or fun. We are very lucky to have such a beautiful area, right in our backyard.
Some of my favorite mountain bike rides are in the San Gabriel Mountains. One in particular starts at Red Box gap and ends at JPL. This ride is quite an adventure with the most awesome scenery. Ortega Hwy or the San Juan trail in Orange County is also very popular. On Thursday nights we used to always do a Sullivan Canyon run in the Santa Monica Mountains with lights. Night riding gives a whole different perspective to our sport. In the past 5 years we have been competing at 24-hour mountain bike races. Mostly we do if for the fun, but little by little we have become more competitive. We took 18 racers to the last event in Idyllwild, CA.
I want to thank so many of my friends and family for supporting myself, and my shop. I am extremely fortunate to have had all these years to serve you.
– Tony Jabuka, Owner