Say hi to Owen here!
1) How/when did you get into cycling as a profession?
I moved to Chicago from the northwest suburbs to attend the University of Illinois Chicago and study philosophy. I had a car, but it rapidly became an expensive pain in the butt, so I went to a police auction with my Dad and we bought a few bikes. He fixed up a Motobecane racing bike for me and I had a Panasonic that was way too tall for a backup bike. I started commuting by bike and I really liked it. Getting around did not really feel like a chore!
As the bike broke down on me, I began fixing it myself—partially through economic necessity, but mostly because I liked fixing my own stuff. At the same time I started to volunteer at Working Bikes to learn more about bikes, which were rapidly becoming my pass time. As I learned to fix one part of the bike, I would move on to something else and figure that out.
Eventually this led me to the next step, constructing my own bicycle. A little research led me to the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Oregon. They are one of a handful of places in the country that have frame building courses. After completing their two-week course, I helped find the space at Bubbly Dynamics that is now the Bubbly Bicycle Works.
As I was learning and acquiring my skills as a mechanic, I started working part-time at Working Bikes, and then at several different shops over the course of five years. About four years into my career, I felt that I should open a small bike shop of my own. One of the big reasons that I was able to pull off the planning and opening Blue City Cycles is my business partner, Clare Knipper. I am lucky enough to have found someone whose abilities compliment mine.
2) How does your organization directly benefit cyclists?
Blue City Cycles is a local bike shop providing the service and expertise that helps get and keep people on the road. We are a pretty straightforward bicycle shop—we sell and repair bicycles.
The idea of opening my own bike shop had been lurking in the back of my head for a while and it only got stronger when I moved to Brigdeport. There was not a shop in the close vicinity since Kozy's Cyclery closed their South Side shop at Ashland and 35th some years ago. The neighborhoods in the area kept that shop going from the forties to the nineties and I figured that the demand was still there. It took more than a year of planning and doing our research before we took the plunge and opened. A year and a half later we are still rolling along.
3) Do you specialize in a certain type of cycling?
I'm not focused on any single type of cycling. I like biking to get around, regardless if it is a long trip or a quick trip to the coffee shop.
4) What are your "must-have" items for cycling (this could be a tool, an accessory, a food, etc.)
Good bright lights for night riding. Too many people neglect this—I'm guilty of it too.
5) What do you see as the biggest area of opportunity in your niche market?
There are a couple of things that we do that sets us apart from some other shops. We will never turn our noses up at a bike that came from a department store. If someone has a bicycle that they want repaired, we will fix it for as fair a price as the job allows. It is great to have folks on bicycles and we will do whatever we can to keep them riding.
Blue City Cycles also offers steel frame repair and fabrication. This is not an inexpensive service, but I see it as a natural extension of what a full service shop should offer. Arrangements can also be made for painting and powder coating of a bicycle and its components. We don't do the finishing ourselves, but work closely with a couple of good guys that do a stand up job.
6) How do you think the cycling community has changed in the last year or two?
I think there has been a slow shift away from the fixey/singlespeed trend toward some more practically minded city bikes.
7) If you could go on a bike ride with anyone (living or dead), who would it be?'
Easy, Mark Twain. "Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live."