Montgomery County

Christman’s Cycle Sales rides off into the sunset

From left, office manager Jessica Daniels, Vice President Barry Christman, mechanic Joe Saltsman and secretary Debbie Christman. Photo by Joshua Thomas/Staff
PHOTOGRAPHER:
From left, office manager Jessica Daniels, Vice President Barry Christman, mechanic Joe Saltsman and secretary Debbie Christman. Photo by Joshua Thomas/Staff

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, Business, Fulton | Montgomery | Schoharie, Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

PALATINE BRIDGE — After 66 years, the family-owned and operated Christman’s Cycle Sales officially closed its doors Monday, but not without first having a proper goodbye.

On Sunday, the community was invited to an Open House in celebration of the business and its accomplishments.

Christman’s Cycle Sales started as an authorized BSA Dealership in 1954, occupying a small spot next door to the expansive facility that exists today.

Owner Owen Christman had a passion for motorcycles, and when he retired from the New York State Thruway Authority at age 55, he worked to expand Christman’s Cycle Sales.

“His passion grew into a small motorcycle shop,” said Vice President Barry Christman, explaining that his father, “Somehow had the vision to take on a Japanese line in 1963.”

The business acquired several lines and products over the years — including Hodaka, Montesa, Norton, and Bultaco along with various models of snowmobile — selling Honda items for nearly six decades.

While Christman’s Cycle Sales started in a one-stall basement, it kept successfully growing, with additions being constructed until space ran out.

“It just kept growing by small leaps and bounds,” said Barry, noting that eventually, a new shop was built where the original house once existed next door to the current storefront — a 60-by-120 foot building constructed in 1996.

Secretary Debbie, Barry’s wife, worked full time in the old shop in the 1970s and 1980s. She recalled, “I had lots of times that men would call and I’d answer the phone and they didn’t want to talk to me because I’m a woman.”

With customers insisting that they speak with Barry, Debbie would state that she’d get Barry if a question arose that she didn’t know how to answer.

With her extensive knowledge about the business and products it sold, Debbie continually impressed customers and changed their previously-held notions about a woman’s capacity for retaining motorcycle-related information.

While Barry and his brother were involved with the shop from a very young age — Barry always being a partner — he took over for his father upon returning from college in 1993.

While Barry was officially in charge of the business as of that year, Owen and (wife and employee) Beverly still worked in the shop on a daily basis until early 2020, when Beverly unfortunately passed away.

Barry and Debbie agreed that their greatest joy in operating Christman’s Cycle Sales was their customers.

During Sunday’s Open House, Barry said, “People came in today that I’ve known forever,” some having been customers for 50 years and/or three generations.

“It’s going to be hard not seeing the people anymore, and it’s hard for them to have to adjust after that length of time,” Debbie stated.

“They’re not only customers, but they’re friends,” Barry added, stating that he looks forward to keeping in touch with those individuals well into the future.

Barry explained that one of his proudest accomplishments related to Christman’s Cycle Sales, is “just being able to stay in business in New York state for this many years.”

He pointed out, “We’re going out on our terms, not somebody else’s.”

“At my age,” and with nobody to leave the shop to, “it’s the right time to do it.”

While Barry said that he plans to take retirement day by day, one thing he looks forward to is firing up his personal collection of bikes accumulated over the past 50 years, which were on display in the Christman’s Cycle Sales, showroom Sunday, visitors being impressed and taking photos with the unique, pristinely-kept machines.

Debbie said retirement will allow the couple to cross items off of their short bucket list. They already have a trip planned for this weekend, with a near future goal being to visit friends across the country.

Office Master Jessica Daniels, niece of Barry and Debbie, was raised in the business. Years ago, she stepped in to help Owen and Beverly, as they were getting older. Since, she’s worked in the Christman’s Cycle Sales office.

Of Owen and Beverly, Jessica commented, “They really built this place from the ground up and they worked here every day for their whole lives. It’s a big deal for our family.”

Continued Jessica, “I’m really going to miss this place. I grew up here. I used to run around here and terrorize everybody, and now I’m in the office helping out.

Everybody is going to miss it — me too.”

Though Christman’s Cycle Sales, officially closed its doors this week, Barry and Debbie said they’ll continue to carry with them the positivity facilitated by their symbiotic relationship with their customers and the community.

Barry sincerely concluded of the shop’s kind and loyal customers, “They appreciated what we did for them, and we appreciated what they did for us.

“Without them, none of this would’ve been possible.”

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