SCHENECTADY — Longtime Schenectady bicycle retailer Les Plaine has died at age 65, barely a year after retiring and closing the store founded by his father in 1945.
He had been ill, and was in hospice care when he passed on Sunday.
Plaine was a very active businessman, operating New York Surplus Auction and the online New York Bicycle Co. along with Plaine and Son Bike Ski Warehouse and as many as three other bicycle shops.
In October 2019, he surprised many of his longtime customers and friends by announcing the closure of Plaine and Son, the last of the four bike shops still in operation.
The decision, he told The Daily Gazette at the time, “is all about my age. I want to do some other things.”
One of his many friends, Michelle Lupe-Bowe of Schenectady, said the closure was a bit out of character for Plaine, and in retrospect she should have realized he wasn’t well.
“Everybody was shocked — ‘you’re going to sell and move to Florida?’”
She thought at the time he was tired of working so many hours and ready for a warmer climate.
“I think I misread him,” Lupe-Bowe said Tuesday. “I truly think that he did not want anyone to know that he was not well.”
Her connection to Plaine was through their children.
“I met Les Plaine about 25 years ago when both of our sons were young,” she said, and their friendship continued beyond the boys’ childhood.
Lupe-Bowe recalls a vibrant man who could light up a room, such as when he went to Broadway Lunch.
“Les was like, ‘Come on everybody, I can’t be the only one having a chocolate milkshake!’
“Everywhere you went, people knew him. He was really a kind person.”
Jamie Pendt recalled that Plaine became a friend and an employer after the two met at one of Plaine’s auctions. Plaine hired Pendt as a bicycle technician, gently let him go when he wasn’t good enough at it, and kept him on to work at his auctions, as well as to do construction projects.
“The auction environment for Les was where I believed he was truly himself,” Pendt said Tuesday. “Always joking, full of laughs and just showing everyone a good time. He was always generous including buying dinner after auctions for any staff and we frequented Marino’s Flying Pizza, which happens to be some of our favorite memories.”
He considered Plaine a mentor.
“I was honored to receive a call from Les last October asking me to come in and liquidate the contents of his State Street bicycle shop,” said Pendt, who’s now an auctioneer and property manager in central New York.
Leslie Plaine was the “Son” in the name of the shop founded 75 years ago by his father, Louis, who is now 102.
Plaine is also survived by his wife, Linda; his children, Matthew and Gabrielle; and his brothers Ronnie and Mitchell.
His obituary indicates that all are welcome to attend a graveside service at 1 p.m. Saturday at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Colonie.