Well-known Statesville bike store owner Jeff Archer died after being hit by a vehicle while walking across a busy road in Mooresville Wednesday night.
Archer, the owner of First Flight Bicycles, was walking through a crosswalk at Williamson Road and Marketplace Avenue when 30-year-old Claydon Laural Turner of Hickory hit him with his vehicle. Turner is now charged with DWI and felony death by motor vehicle, according to Mooresville police Major Gerald Childress.
According to First Flight Bicycles manager Wes Davidson, Archer was attending an oldies car show with his son and father at Bruster’s Ice Cream on Williamson Road when the incident happened.
Archer, 52, leaves behind his wife, Julie, and their two sons, Seth, 21, and Sam, 18. His death is still under investigation by the Mooresville Police Department.
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According to First Flight Bicycles’ Facebook page, Archer’s store is still operating with regular hours and will announce if anything changes.
“With a heavy heart we say goodbye to Jeff, not only a proprietor, but also a driving force, an inspiration, and a shoulder to lean on for all of us here,” the store’s website reads. “Your family and friends at First Flight Bicycles will miss you.”
Employees and friends said when they first met Archer while buying a bike at his store, they didn’t know the transaction would turn into a friendship.
Andy Reid of Statesville said after he bought a bike from Archer’s store, they started riding together.
Some of the riding they did was part of a Thursday night routine, Reid said. He and other bikers would meet at Archer’s house, go for a ride, and end the night back at Archer’s, talking about life.
“He was a great person in general. Always funny, always had a wise crack,” Reid said. “He’d do anything for you, help you out in any way. He was that guy.”
Per Julie’s request, Reid said they were still going to do their Thursday night ride this week to remember Archer.
“She knew this would be something he’d want,” Reid said, adding they hope to plan some sort of riding tribute in the future.
Archer started working on bikes in the late 1970s. A dad in his Boy Scout troop who was known as the local fix-it guy gave him two truckloads of bike junk one day, and he was hooked, he told the Observer in 2009. He built a couple of bikes out of the mess and scoured the local garbage dump and garage sales for raw materials.
The store’s website said that after he graduated from Ohio State University in 1987, he decided that owning a bike shop was more exciting than his major, computer engineering. So he moved South to open his own store and became the owner of stores in Statesville and Hickory over the years.
Archer, a longtime mountain biker, also led a more than decade-long effort to create 30 miles of mountain bike routes in Lake Norman State Park in Troutman. The Itusi Trail was the most extensive public or private mountain bike trail system in the Charlotte region when it was completed in 2012.
In his store in 2007, Archer opened a museum dedicated to mountain bikes. Two years later, Smithsonian.com featured his Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology in a profile of U.S. niche museums.
The store displays 450 vintage bikes in all, including some bikes and parts dating to the 1860s, more than a century before the advent of mountain bikes in the California mountains. Archer considered the mountain bikes in his collection as art, from their paint schemes to the subtleties of the curves of the joints in their frames.
His store has also been voted as a top 100 bike shop in the country by Bicycling magazine and by Bicycle Retailer.
Raleigh resident Lizzie Warlick said she remembers growing up in Statesville and counting on Archer to fix up her bike.
“I bought my first bike from him when I was a little kid,” she said. “He took care of us, you could say.”
Warlick said Archer played a huge part with Statesville’s youth, giving people jobs and always hoping to help others.
One of the jobs he gave was to Davidson, who rose in the ranks to store manager and worked closely with Archer.
Like many others, Davidson was drawn back to Archer’s shop after buying a bike. He started working part-time at the store when he was 16.
“Eighteen years later, here I am,” Davidson said. Though he said working in the store on Thursday was difficult, the support of the community has been incredible.
“Being here today has done a lot for me,” he said. “It’s been very good to see how many people’s lives he has touched, that they’d drop what they’re doing to say hello.”
Cole: 704-358-5357; @kianamcole