Is Jack Walsh's Punchbowl shop closed?

I heard over the weekend that Jack Walsh's Punchbowl bicycle shop has closed. It truly marks the passing of an era in Sydney's south-west and in Australian cycling. Jack once rebuilt a set of wheels for a road bike of mine and his handiwork is a prized posession of mine. Jack has run his shop on Punchbowl road continuously for 65 years. The shop has some fantastic murals, and the obligatory selection of cycling photos, some of which have made their way to his great mate Mick Mazza's shop on Marrickville Road, Marrickville. More on Mick later.

I haven't been out to Punchbowl for a while so I can't confirm his shop's shut, but it's got me thinking (and linking) to a few little web snippets about the man. I hope I'm wrong and that someone has taken it over and respected Jack's great work for cycling and retained the murals and the classic look of the shop. Sadly, methinks not.

According to MP Tony Stewart, who delivered a short biography of the great man in the NSW Parliament in 2006, the now-85 year old Jack Walsh is one of Bankstown's 'living legends'. "Jack started work at the age of 13, when his father died. He was left the breadwinner for his family. He looked after his family courageously and well. At 14 he entered an apprenticeship, which changed his life forever. The apprenticeship was at F. D. Walcott, a large bicycle shop situated in Wentworth Avenue, Sydney. Jack quickly showed his love for bicycle racing. He was an athletic young man. It did not take long before he was into bicycle racing. During that same year, when he was only 14 years of age, he won his first junior New South Wales championship at Canterbury velodrome, which is now Wiley Park.

Jack went on to win 21 Australian championships and 19 New South Wales championships. As a professional, Jack beat every rider he met—including overseas champions—at sprint races and half-mile races. When the war broke out in the 1940s Jack served his country in the Pacific, which meant that he was unable to continue his athletic career in bicycle racing. He also missed out on a guernsey in the Olympic Games, which were cancelled in 1940. Nevertheless, Jack was a living legend even back then. He has provided opportunities for many people who have been under his wing. Under his guidance, they have become sporting stars and sporting heroes. Jack was paramount in ensuring the Bankstown velodrome was used as an Olympic facility and for servicing the needs of riders during the games. Jack is a family man. He has eight children and 19 grandchildren. Throughout his life he has been an amazing character. He has been generous to charity. He gives away thousands and thousands of dollars to local charities and wider charities without a word said. He never wants credit for his generosity. He actually says, "Please don't tell anybody." In 1964 he was decorated by the Queen and received an OBE. He is a life member of the Roads and Traffic Authority and the League of New South Wales Wheelmen. He is also a member of the Bankstown City Hall of Fame."

What a legend. According to Mick Mazza, Jack is now in a nursing home. I wonder if he still owns this amazing piece of cycling memorabilia?

While I'm on this tangent, Mick himself is muttering about giving the gig away. His health's not so good, and he tells me he wants more time to lift weights and get back into shape. Since he had his health problems, he's been off the bike and grumbles about it constantly. Now he's all that's left of Sout-west Sydney's cycling history.

If he ever sells, I'd like to buy the business, keep the name, the photos, the memorabilia and history and keep his tradition going of keeping EVERYONE, regardless of their income status, on their wheels. If you've ever entertained this thought, get in touch, I'd like to discuss it. We could do this and keep a legendary name in cycling going.

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Comment by Kim on April 28, 2008 at 6:04pm
When I bought my bike from Mick Mazza he gave me a box of very expensive chocolates. I thought I was the only one that he did that for but I have since found out he did it quite often. He spent about an hour talking to me about cycling and all the good areas to go cycling. It was a nice change to some of the bike shops around.
Comment by Simon Sharwood on April 29, 2008 at 1:40pm
Mick is indeed a gentleman. I was in there on Sunday to bludge some air, ended up leaving with a digital pump he sold me with a hefty discount!
Comment by Karen on April 30, 2008 at 11:58pm
Yes the shop unfortunately closed just before Christmas. From what I have been told it will be sold. Jack's family has all the memorabilia from the store. It is either going to be relocated it to another location for display or it will be auctioned. It wont be destroyed. I met Jack two years ago and his store definately was like stepping back in time. I visited the store after it closed as I had to meet with his son and it was very eerie and sad seeing the store empty after so many years. Out the back room was Jack's first workstand he had when working for Walcott. The room it stood in eight staff members once worked. All madly servicing bikes as the demand was so high. It was as though their spirits were still there. I was given a few of his tools and I will treasure these and I remember Jack everytime I use them. Last time I saw Jack he yelled at me. But that's what Jack is like, cranky one day, happy the next. He is a character and you just never knew what mood he was going to be in. It's a shame to see the shop go and to hear of ones such as Mick's possibly closing. There are not many still around and they offer a service which you dont see enough of anymore.
Comment by Miguel on May 1, 2008 at 11:39am
Karen, thanks so much for that, really good to know that there are plans to preserve the memorabilia. The shop had a similar effect on me, I could really picture what it must have been like a good forty years ago, with weekend racers, families and commuters frequenting the place.
Are there any other bike shops in Sydney like this?
Comment by Karen on May 1, 2008 at 11:50am
Micks shop as you know is similar. I am unsure of if there are others. I know Ashfield Cycles and Universe Cycles in Parramatta are stores which have been around for a long time. I have not been to Ashfield Cycles and Universe, though it has a number of old bikes is not quite the same as what Jack's shop was like. I do know there is a Hardware/Bike store at Canterbury which is interesting. It is a bit of a mess and doesnt look like a bike store, but many years ago they used to donate paint tins as prizes for the Sydney to Goulburn race. Al who owns the store does a lot of work on Penny Farthings and used to race so is quite an interesting man to talk to. Karen.
Comment by Jonathon Troy on May 1, 2008 at 12:33pm
Europa Cycles in Kensington and Kingswood Cycles in Kingswood are similar shops to what I understand about Jack Walsh's shop. These shops look after the local cyclists and have quite a log of cycling history. I must admit I would be lost without Mick Mazza - he has been able to do some urgent repairs on some of my bikes at very short notice and at a reasonable rate as well. I had heard that Jack went out of business last year. A workmate bought a bike he commutes on from there and got it at a good rate. He got it serviced there regulary. I hope Miguel or someone buys Micks shop if he does pull the pin. Last time I was in Micks shop he had an offsider, with a bit of luck this will give Mick more time for what he wants to do, while keeping the shop going.
I am always fascinated by Micks stories of touring and racing. Especially the Goulburn to Liverpool races.
Comment by Miguel on May 1, 2008 at 12:34pm
I know Universe Cycles in Parramatta. It has that classic shelving display with a central path that all these shops seem to share - do you know any more detail about the canterbury shop? I used to live in Campsie and Canterbury and like the sound of that one.
Comment by Karen on May 1, 2008 at 1:16pm
Miguel, it is either on old or new canterbury road. (Sorry I get the two muddled up) It is directly oposite 7/11 and usually there is a penny farthing and a couple of bikes tied to the pole out the front. It doesnt look like a bike shop, it looks more like a junk store as Al is a bit of a hoarder but look for a shop that looks like a mess and that is it. Best day to go is Saturday when Al is there. Another shop which is good is Peter Bundy cycles in Riverwood. He is not old, but having grown up in the cycling industry and with his father once owning a store, he does provide that old style service. His father Jim is a well known frame builder in Sydney.
Comment by Miguel on May 1, 2008 at 5:07pm
I've got a Jim Bundy racing 12-speed specially for kids in my shed which I plan to clean up and give to one of my kids one day. I'm going to check that shop out, thanks Karen
Comment by Karen on May 1, 2008 at 5:14pm
Hope your shed is nice and dry. You have a well made frame if one of Jim's. I have one here of his as well. Currently building it up so I can ride it.

Karen.

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