Metro-East News

Two former Harley-Davidson employees open a new motorcycle parts shop in Belleville

Downtown Belleville continues to attract more retailers to Main Street. This time, a motorcycle parts, leather and apparel shop has joined the lineup of newcomers at 117 W. Main St..

Charlene Cox and Mike Bielke, former Harley-Davidson employees, own and operate Barstool Gypsy. The store opened inside of a former print shop in February after sitting vacant for five years.

“We gutted the entire thing, all the way down,” Cox said seated next to Bielke. “It’s now top of the line... it’s new.”

The store features fashionable apparel, motorsports gear, sunglasses, scarfs and handbags. In the middle of the store, customers will find shoes, jeans and leather goods. Motorcycle parts, accessories and supplies are toward the rear.

A look at the inventory at Barstool Gypsy Upholstery & Leather. Cara Anthony

There’s also leather repair and sewing services for customers who want to fix or customize their gear.

“We’re not just some motorcycle shop with loud and burly guys,” Bielke said. “You can come in here and you can get a nice outfit on Friday night or you if need to rebuild your starter, we’ve got the parts for it.”

Bielke said the store will keep hard-to-find parts in-stock for a wide range of motorcycle, not just Harley-Davidson. They’ll also carry parts for Suzuki, Yamaha and other motorcycle brands.

“We have access to all of that stuff,” Bielke said. “ If you ride a motorcycle, walk through the door. I guarantee, we’ll get you taken of.”

Sharing their passion with the community

Both Bielke and Cox have a passion for motorcycles that bloomed when they were kids.

The biking community has become their family over the years, and they hope to bring the same feeling into the family-friendly store.

There’s a miniature display for kids to check out up front and there’s merchandise in the store that could appeal to college students nearby.

“It’s not just motorcycle stuff,” Cox said. “There’s apparel and accessories that could appeal to anybody.”

Making moves on Main Street

Seven new businesses joined an already eclectic mix of locally-owned businesses along Belleville’s Main Street.

Late last year, Wendy Pfeil, executive director of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is “thrilled” with all the new places.

“Belleville is made up primarily of small businesses that are the heart and soul of our community,” Pfeil said in an email. “These new businesses show that Belleville is a thriving city with many positive attributes that attract new business owners.”

Alicia Chillemi Slocomb, Belleville Main Street Committee manager, agreed calling the growth spurt “the renaissance” of downtown.

Barstool Gypsy Upholstery & Leather is the eighth business to open in downtown Belleville since 2018.

“I grew up here,” Bielke said. “When Charlene asked where we wanted to do this, I said, ‘Downtown Belleville.’”

Cara Anthony covers restaurants and retail for the Belleville News-Democrat, where she works to answer readers’ questions about restaurant openings, business closures and the best new dishes in the metro-east. She attended Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville and grew up in East St. Louis.
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