Chicago's nonprofit bike shops take a spin for the better.
By Sheila Burt|
Standing on the second floor of a former furniture store, Jesse Hautau is surrounded by nearly 800 bicycles. As store manager of Working Bikes Cooperative, a nonprofit that ships bicycles to developing countries and sells refurbished bicycles in Chicago, Hautau is clearing space in preparation for a new workspace and storefront.
Formerly located in Tri-Taylor, Working Bikes used separate locations for shipping, sales and repairs. But the just-opened spot, at 2434 South Western Avenue in Little Village, gives it the space to combine all of the organization’s operations in one building.
At a time when most organizations are scaling back, Working Bikes is not alone in its expansion. Two more bicycle nonprofits—West Town Bikes and the Recyclery—are also moving into larger digs. “People are starting to realize the worth of the bicycle,” Hautau says. “They’re starting to understand that it’s valuable infrastructure as well as just being enjoyment in your life.”
Hautau and Working Bikes founder Lee Ravenscroft hope the new location will not only make it easier to get bicycles ready for shipment, but will also let more people—especially those who already buy their used sets of wheels at Working Bikes—know about the shop’s mission and volunteer base.
As Working Bikes settles into Little Village, West Town Bikes is preparing to expand its presence in the West Town and Humboldt Park communities by moving to 2459 West Division Street and opening a storefront for the first time since its launch in 2004. The store, Ciclo Urbano, will sell used bicycles that have been repaired and are priced under $500.
The nonprofit will still focus on adult workshops and youth programming, teaching people about bicycle safety and maintenance, but the new sales shop will help pay for operating costs and spread West Town’s mission, says Alex Wilson, director of West Town Bikes. “We’re very excited about having this more public face. Right now, we’re kind of a hidden treasure,” Wilson says.
While the current operation, at 2418 West North Avenue, is in a small alleyway, the new location will be on Paseo Boricua, Humboldt Park’s main street, starting May 1. “I think being on Paseo Boricua and having this bike shop that is community-based is going to get many more people excited about bicycling,” Wilson says. “It’s going to broaden the face—the constituency—of bicycle activism in Chicago.”
The Recyclery, currently based in the basement of an apartment in Evanston, also hopes to expand its public presence this spring. The nonprofit, which offers several community programs focusing on bicycle maintenance, is in the process of moving to Rogers Park at 7628 North Paulina Street, just under the Howard El tracks.
“We were having concerns about not being visible,” says Froilan Landeros, a core member who is in charge of the adult build-a-bike program. He hopes the new location enables the Recyclery to offer more community programs, expand hours and schedule more used-bike sales. “[We want to tell people that] this is something you can do. Anyone can do it,” Landeros says.