Many years ago in the music business, as mp3 downloads became prevalent and CD sales began to decline, it was not uncommon to find independent stores diversifying their business with sales of clothing, DVDs and electrical goods. With the likes of Virgin Megastores crumbling under the pressure, things were not looking good for the specialist. The thinking behind diversifying into goods not necessarily specific to the market was simply to give customers a further reason to step into the store and so, over time, the face of the business changed drastically.
The bike trade has its own distractions, with many independents now carrying skateboards, satellite navigation and in some cases, video cameras. So, why not coffee? In built-up areas where commuting by bike is rife, it seems like there are good opportunities to be a one-stop shop for the workaholic. Most commuting cyclists will desire a caffeine boost before work, but probably wouldn’t want an energy gel sachet first thing in the morning. On the off chance that your store is open at morning rush hours, what more reason could customers have for popping in aside from needing a quick fix on a puncture? This begs the question, has the bike trade rolled over and accepted that some points during the day will be quiet periods?
Not Look Mum, No Hands. Imitating some of the mixed purpose stores cropping up on the continent, the Old Street location, which opened at the end of April, is as much a coffee shop as it is a workshop and cycle retailer. Manager of the coffee side of the business Lewin Chalkey tells BikeBiz: “From experience I can tell you it’s not easy running a coffee store, despite there being quite a strong scene among the connoisseurs, particularly in London. The same applies to the bicycle business.
“As London has both a strong cycling and coffee scene, we wanted to unite the two. With London as saturated as it is with large bike shops, there would be no point in opening just another store. Marrying the two trades gives cyclists a further reason to swing by.”
The concept has, in fact, gone far further than originally planned. Starting with a desire to create a workshop and café combination, Matthew Harper, Sam Humpheson and Lewis Chalkey soon realised that showing televised cycle sport was also something they wanted to do. That inevitably lead to an application for a licence to also sell alcohol. Upon finding a prime location at a surprisingly reasonable cost, the vision escalated further, until it was decided bicycle parking could be installed on site, furthering the appeal to passing punters. Perhaps the most significant part of the business was the decision to have greatly extended working hours. Opening at 7.30am and closing at ten pm, it is believed that the store will have the longest workshop hours of any store in London.
Cycle retail is perhaps the most discreet part of the business model, yet carries the greatest scope for expansion. Sam Humpheson explains: “We’ve had tremendous support from local firms like cycle storage firm Cycloc and Plantlock and in the near future we’d like to retail a few items. Odd bike sales aside, sales of components will sit on the backburner to the workshop trade, which we anticipate will grow as people discover us. We’ve created something we are incredibly proud of and something that surpasses our original vision, so it’ll be interesting to see where the business goes from here.
“We’ve no plans for world domination, instead we simply hope to be a place where the cycle and coffee culture comes to rest, all while customers are able to park securely, grab a drink or a bite and have repairs made if needed.”
Telephone: 020 7253 1025
Address: 49 Old Street, London
Opening Hours: 7.30am until 10pm