Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coast In Bikes

Tristan and Carolyn in front of their store's sign

Carolyn Weber and Tristan Klein are about to make their dreams come true, which is amazing since I'm not sure either of them have slept in the past month.  Aside from working their full time gigs, they have been burning the wick at both ends to get their new bike shop open, Coast In Bikes, in the Walkers Point neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This dream of theirs began in May 2012 when they decided to buy property to refinance student loan debt and reduce taxes.  Being frustrated with the job market, they thought it would be great to kill two birds with one stone and open up a business in the property.  Although they didn't plan on settling in Milwaukee, they have both decided to continue their commitment to the community and invest in a future there as Coast In Bikes grows.

Tristan in yellow and Carolyn in purple along with a mutual
friend, Angie, in orange at Madtown Maidens 2
For them, a bike shop just made sense.  Between the two, they have over sixteen years experience in the bike industry ranging from bike rentals, bike repairs and service, to female focused classes/mechanic nights and event planning.  I first met the two at an all women's bike event I put on here in Madison.  Carolyn was racing and Tristan was volunteering.  I knew we would become friends right away.  Their enthusiasm for cycling oozed out of them and both were so laid back and easy to be around.  In the past year, I've gotten to know both of them a bit better, and am amazed by what they are about to undertake.  I'm not sure if most of you understand what's involved in opening up a shop from scratch while working full time jobs and moving your living quarters across town, but believe me when I say they are much tougher than I'll ever be!

This past weekend, I decided to ride to Milwaukee and of course, I had to go see their shop--even though it was in it's beginning stages.    I hadn't spent much time in the Walkers Point neighborhood, and had never biked there but within minutes, I was in love.  Walkers Point is a fantastic mix of cultures.  On one corner you can get great Mexican food, on another, you can buy groceries from an Asian market, and on another corner, you can eat at a high end restaurant.  Down the road is the Lao Buddhist Temple and all of this is just outside of downtown and not far at all from the lake.  Did I mention the Wisconsin Bike Fed office is only a couple miles away and there are bike paths quite close?  Fantastic on all ends!

The parking garage at Bucketworks

My husband and I were lucky enough to get a tour of the entire property, Bucketworks, a business incubator, which houses Coast In Bikes.  This group of buildings is truly amazing.  So many "out-of-the-box" thinkers call this their second home.  Businesses that build bee boxes to 3D illustrators are located right next to the bike shop and there is even open space for events.  Their opening party will be held this Friday night for gallery night and you'll get a chance to check out the structure for yourself before the doors open for business.

Somehow, between working both jobs, getting the shop ready and moving, Carolyn and Tristan found time to answer a few questions I sent them.  Enjoy getting to know them and stop by their shop when you're in the area--you'll love it!

1) You're such a big part of the Riverwest community...what made you choose Walker's Point as your shop location?

A) There were many factors we considered including Riverwest already having a local bicycle shop; Truly Spoken Cycles. However, Walkers Point neighborhood does not have a bicycle shop. By researching the area more, and from our own commuting, we knew the area has three large bicycle trails sections that intersect in Walkers Point: the Oak Leaf Trail, the Hank Aaron Trail and the developing Bay View Corridor.  Walkers Point is also a developing business district with many new restaurants, shops and clubs. Second Street recently become a complete street and is used by many commuters in Milwaukee. We also found out that 29% of the population in the area does not own a vehicle in their household; however, there isn't a local bicycle shop.

Riverwest has been our home throughout college and for three years afterwards.  I love the community involvement and will be back often to visit friends. However, Walkers Point and Walkers Square has an active community that we are excited to contribute to and learn from!

2) What type of clientele are you hoping to draw to Coast In Bikes?

All types. Hence our moto, "A bike for every occasion". However, we expect the majority of our customers to be commuters from Bay View to Wauwatosa to Walkers Point to Downtown. It’s why we chose a location in the middle of the city. We are planning on focusing on commuter bicycles; specifically cargo bikes. In addition, we will also have a variety of used bikes available for rent and will be working with outside groups for bicycle tours. 

3) I hear there is a possibility of you two opening a bike hostel--can you give me any details?

We started last May with the idea of opening a hostel and a bicycle shop in the same building. As our business plan evolved, and funding sources developed, Coast In bikes is the first to get started.  As we work to open and develop Coast In Bikes this spring, we are starting to get gather funding for the hostel, Third Coast Inn, with the intention of having Milwaukee’s only hostel and bicycle shop in the same building or near each other. We hope to put Milwaukee on the map with having both businesses in operation by next spring!

4) What changes would you like to see MKE make in the future for biking?

The Oak Leaf trails are disappearing in many sections and we also need more East-West connections.  These trails are important to keep developing and to develop to encourage more people to feel secure bicycling in the community.  Also, we would like to see businesses contribute to improve the trail system by sponsoring a trail and, having in return, a sign along the adopted trail.  This way bicycle-related businesses support our trails and are able to directly advertise their business.

Another change we would like to see is improved infrastructure; specifically with our off road bicycle trails.  We have an amazing system of trails; however, they need to be connected with safer connections.  We are constantly aware of how Milwaukee can be a great city for bicycling and would love to see our city gain silver status...even gold again in the future. 

5) Which bike projects in MKE are you really proud of?

We're proud of bicycle racks on buses.  They have made a tremendous impact on the bicycling community and connecting our city in the short time they've been on the buses.  I'm encouraged by the Bay View Bicycle Coordinator being built for Bayview to downtown commuters.  Last year, I was able to get the Federal Building downtown to put in two more bicycle racks for the commuters after a year of asking the building owners to expand from their two racks for over fifty commuters a day.  I was proud I could make that small change.  Personally, we're proud to take over the Winter Bike Forum the last two winters from Jason at the Milwaukee Bike Collective and expand our winter bicycling community here in Milwaukee.  Last year we had over 100 attendees!

Carolyn and Tristan (in the middle) for Riverwest 24 2012

6) Carolyn: How long have you been involved with RW24 and are you riding solo again?

I’ve been involved with RW24 for 3 years.  One year racing on a team and two years racing solo.  Every time I’ve raced I’ve also volunteered because I feel it’s important to give back to the community.  The best part about volunteering at RW24 is that I get to hang out with all of my friends.

Tristan: You've been working at Rays in MKE, do you feel having an urban mt. bike park has introduced a lot of newbies to the sport? How do you think Rays has helped the bike community grow in MKE?

Absolutely.  I think it has introduced a lot of new Mt. Bikers to the sport, but I also think it has introduced a lot of existing Mt. Bikers to new forms of Mt. Biking such as Dirt Jump and Free Ride.  It definitely puts Milwaukee on the map for bike tourists as well.  The average drive for a Ray's MTB customer is five hours.

7) What's in your stable right now?

Carolyn:  Surly LHT*, Xtra-Cycle, Trek FX winter bike, Kona Unit 29er (in pieces).

Tristan:  80's Raleigh single speed convert, Haro single speed 29er converted to Nuvinci Hub and Roller Brakes for winter, Gary Fisher Ferrous 26 inch, Giant TCR aluminum, Ridley Crosswind*, Surly Travelers Check (work in progress).

(*) indicates favorite.

We believe in a bike for every occasion after all!

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