Visit Jon at his shop at 1311 North Wells in Chicago.
1) How/when did you get into cycling as a profession?
I lived in Amsterdam for two years back in 2006-07 and was inspired by their bike culture. Right before moving back to Chicago, I had a chance encounter with the founder of a really cool Dutch bike company called De Fietsfabriek. I had a feeling that people would enjoy their bikes as much as I did, so I started importing them to Chicago at the beginning of 2008.
After about a year of balancing my day job and selling bikes out of a public storage unit, I took the leap and left the corporate world behind to open up our retail location in Old Town. It has always been a goal of mine to start my own business and I feel very fortunate to have found something that I am able to put as much passion into as I can with these bikes. When I was first getting started, a mutual friend introduced me to Kevin Womac (owner of Boulevard Bikes). Kevin was very helpful in providing some much needed early guidance. Thank you, Kevin!
Bikes have been a big part of my life ever since I was a kid growing up in Oak Park and although I didn't use one all that much during high school, I picked it back up when I went to college downstate in Champaign-Urbana, which had a great network of bike lanes even way back then. After college I continued to ride my bike to commute the short distance from Old Town to my job in Streeterville and on weekends to go “mountain biking” in Palos Hills and the Forest Preserve along the Des Plaines River.
I've never owned a car, mostly because I could never justify the expense of owning one, but also because I've always lived in places where using cars simply didn’t make sense. Living in Amsterdam and having the chance to experience what it's like to use a bike for basically all of your transportation was like a dream and I am really happy to see more and more people using bikes that same way in Chicago.
2) How does your organization directly benefit cyclists?
By making unique brands of European city commuter and cargo bikes readily available to the Chicago/North American market and focusing on smart practical bikes that are designed to enhance their riders' lifestyles.
3) Do you specialize in a certain type of cycling?
We focus on bikes that are meant for everyday urban transportation. Cargo bikes and city commuter bikes with comfortable upright riding postures and standard features like fenders, chain guard, racks, internally geared hubs, kickstand, and lights, etc. In addition to functionality, we also gravitate towards bikes that have an aesthetically pleasing design—bikes with personality and character.
4) What is your favorite bike to sell or ride?
If I had to pick a favorite, I would say that the family cargo trike would be it. If you've been to our shop or taken a peak at our website, you will quickly notice that we are focused big time on family mobility and we are probably the only bike shop in the country that carries three different brands of family cargo trikes. The trikes are basically human powered cars, which give you the ability to haul not just yourself, but your kids, groceries, backpacks, dogs… you name it! We get a lot of great feedback from our customers and the trikes always seem to have the most transformative impact on families—which is awesome!
5) What are your "must-have" items for cycling (this could be a tool, an accessory, a food, etc.)
I am a big fan of eye protection, so I almost always ride with my sunglasses that have removable lenses that allow me to change to a lighter tint for riding at night. They are also great for rainy days and cold weather.
6) What do you see as the biggest area of opportunity in your niche market?
I think the family cargo bikes have a tremendous opportunity for growth, but I’m also very excited about the commercial applications of these bikes. I believe that we will see a number of businesses, small and large, who will begin to utilize cargo bikes for promotional and delivery purposes.
7) How do you think the cycling community has changed in the last year or two?
It’s growing at a rapid pace, and more and more people are getting back into biking for the first time since they were teenagers. Also, more cyclists are starting to realize that features like fenders, chain guards, and kickstands are actually pretty sweet things to have on your bike.
8) If you could go on a bike ride with anyone (living or dead), who would it be?'
My mom. She still rides her bike almost every day to commute to work. I remember one time back in high school when my friends and I drove past my mom commuting to work on her bike in the snow. My friends were blown away and I smiled and told them, “That's how she rolls!”