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Reality show a possibility for Bicycle Heaven in North Side

| Sunday, June 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Bicycle Heaven owner and founder, Craig Morrow, 57, stands in the Groovy Cranky Panky Sprocket room at his Chateau shop, June 12, 2014. Morrow opened on the North Side just off the Jail Trail 2.5 years ago after storing bikes and components in garages around the city, consolidating a 30-year passion of all things cycling.

The North Side's two-wheeled staple, Bicycle Heaven, is being eyed as the subject of an “American Pickers”-style reality show, says owner and founder Craig Morrow.

Morrow, 57, opened the sprawling museum and bike shop inside the RJCasey Industrial Park, just off the Jail Trail, nearly three years ago after storing more than 3,000 bikes and parts in garages around the city for 30 years.

“I just like neat stuff,” he said, crossing his arms over a sleeveless, oil-stained shirt. “I'm one of those guys who, once I get into something, I really get into it. I was into cars once. Did studio recording out of my house for a while. I'm pretty sold on bikes, now.”

Anthony Lynch of Chateau-based marketing group Anthony Michael Creative LLC, who handles marketing for Morrow, said the deal is “very preliminary.”

A film crew dropped by a few months ago to test color and light, Morrow said. Footage from the shop is being shopped around to major networks now. If the pitch for a pilot gains traction, he said, the film crews will return.

“There's a lot to figure out,” Lynch said. “The kind of attention an arrangement like that would bring could be amazing for the shop, but right now, the museum is small enough that Craig can show you everything himself.”

If Bicycle Heaven grows to include an entertainment arm, the shop will need to become more accessible for a self-guided audience, Lynch said.

Expansion is slow-going. Morrow expects to add 1,000 more bikes to his collection this summer and reorganize the adjoining bike repair shop, which services cyclists year-round. Morrow's wife, Mindy, opened a massage room for bicyclists coming off the trail in an adjoining room on Monday, she said.

“We do the same thing (“American) Pickers” do, with a very specific eye,” he said, referring to the popular History Channel show for restoration enthusiasts.

“Collectors would come looking for a specific bike, and I'd say, ‘Sure, but we've got to go to this house or that one to get it.'”

Morrow lent bikes to film sets, including “A Beautiful Mind” and “Fathers and Daughters,” both starring Russell Crowe, who dropped by the museum last month.

“Rich people, poor people, important people — it doesn't matter,” Morrow said. “Everyone always has a story about their favorite bike.”

Larry and Barb Klemencic, both 67, of Bridgeville recently brought a pickup piled with bicycles to the shop. They left their haul in the parking lot while Morrow assessed the bikes — one for parts, four for resale, maybe.

Inside, Barb clapped a hand to her mouth, pointing to a 1930s-style bicycle trapped in a chunk of an old tree, while Larry tinkered with the handlebars of an electric blue Stingray.

“I wanted it to be dynamic,” Morrow said, watching. “A museum full of the kind of stuff you can touch. Every once in a while, something might get damaged, but it's worth it. Just look at their faces.”

Ronald Prince, 53, of Philadelphia wandered through the shop with a friend. He visits Pittsburgh a lot, he said. The city and its bike scene have come a long way.

“Trails? We didn't have trails 20 years ago,” Prince said. “We just hoped (drivers) were looking out for us, and most of the time, they weren't.”

Mechanic Brian Schaffer, 44, met Morrow in the mid-80s. His hands are more black than flesh-toned, so incrusted with muck and grease that he said he never gets them totally clean.

“Craig used to collect bikes and guitars,” Schaffer said. “I'd give him a box of parts and charge him $200 not knowing it was worth $10,000. It was before the Internet when we could price all this stuff. It's great that he kept up with it all. No one knew what they had.”

Megan Harris is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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