In 1972, Manny Rey walked into Mack Cycle and Fitness in need of a job. But 41 years later, it’s safe to say that the South Miami bicycle shop found something it never knew it needed in Manny Rey.
“Manny has treated my father, myself and my kids,” said Laura Keepax, a high school teacher from South Miami who first came to Mack Cycle with her parents in the ‘60s. “I’ve brought bikes in the best of shape and the worst of shape, and he always tells me to come back in an hour or two, and he is always done. He’s a magician with bikes.”
Rey, 66, is the chief mechanic at the bike shop, 5995 Sunset Drive, and his is the familiar face that makes Mack Cycle less of a retail experience and more of a homecoming for generations of Miami-Dade cyclists.
“I’ve been coming to Mack’s for nearly 30 years,” said Robert Hans, 54, a recreational bike-rider from Coral Gables who purchased his first road bike because of Rey’s recommendation almost 20 years ago. “This is a separate world that he has been the master of. You need to come back here to appreciate that.”
After four decades of repairing, assembling and matching riders with the perfect bikes, Rey is retiring Saturday. The Mack Cycle staff is hosting a retirement party from 4-7 p.m. Saturday to celebrate his years of service.
“Manny is a breed of person that you don’t see anymore,” said Mary Jane Mark, the owner of Mack Cycle. “You can always rely on him. Even if he’s sick, he gives no excuses.”
Mark inherited the shop from her father, Thaddeus Mark, after he passed away in 1999. He purchased the former lawn mower store in 1957, and it was his idea to transform it into a bicycle shop.
With Rey’s help, it has become one of the most reputable bicycle shops in Miami.
“Manny likes to rub in that he’s worked here longer than me,” said Mark jokingly.
Hailing from Puerto Rico, Rey grew up around the riding and fixing of bikes. He became fascinated with the hobby, and after moving to New York in 1961, he landed his first job at a bike shop.
“In New York, I was too young to work and I didn’t go to school, so I would go to the bike store,” Rey said. “I would walk around and be in and out until the owner hired me.”
A decade later, he moved to Miami for a better opportunity.
The odds were on his side when the first shop he stopped at pointed to Mack Cycle.
“I went to Niagara Bicycles and the owner said there were no openings, go to the number one shop in South Miami,” said Rey, so he did.
“When I started, Mr. Mack asked me how much I would like to make. I said $3.50 an hour. Then Mr. Mack took me for coffee and said, ‘I can’t give you $3.50. I’ll give you $4.50.’”
Rey credits Mark’s father, who he refers to as Mr. Mack, for teaching him how to treat customers.
“He was more like a father,” said Rey. “He taught me how to be a better person, and how to treat people. I don’t try to sell them things they don’t need. I let them tell me what they need.”
Jose “Jo” Mendez, 44, a regular at Mack Cycle for 10 years now, said Rey once saved him $600 by fixing the cranks on his bicycle while other mechanics told him they needed to be replaced. “He’s truthful,” Mendez said. “If it needs to be replaced he’ll tell you, but most of the time he does his best to try to fix it. I’m sad that he’s going to leave.”
But Rey’s care and loyalty is not the only thing that people will miss.
Roberio Bezerra, a head mechanic, said Rey’s absence will be felt when it comes to servicing older bikes.
“Bikes from the past that you can’t find online, the history that you don’t know about, Manny does,” said Bezerra. “Every day we have those questions and we pass them to Manny.”
Rey said he’ll volunteer at triathlons and races, providing roadside assistance to bikers who breakdown — something he has always done for the many events that Mack Cycle sponsors.
But not coming to work is something that he admits he’ll have to adjust to.
“I will miss the shop and the people; the getting up, going to work and having a place to be.”
Mack Cycle customers feel the same.
“I’ll miss him terribly because it feels like when a family member leaves off to college or moves away,” said Laura Keepax. “But I know I’ll still be in good hands with the family at Mack Cycle.”