DETROIT—The new Downtown Detroit Bike Shop may have only opened its doors a few weeks ago, but it’s already part of a long cycling tradition.
The store is owned by 30-year-old Jon Hughes, who is also the proprietor of the Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop. He comes from a family steeped in the bicycle business. His father, Dale Hughes, designs and builds Olympic cycling tracks. Mike Walden, his grandfather, trained numerous Olympic cyclists and owned several bike shops in Detroit up until the 1970s.
“I’ve been involved with bike shops my entire life,” Hughes told Mode Shift. “It’s something my parents and my grandparents did. I’m pretty sure I’ll be bike-riding until my legs go out.”
In late June, he brought the family legacy back to Motown, opening up for business in a Eastern Market building that used to house the Germack Pistachio company. At approximately 2,800-square-feet, the space is about two-and-a-half times the size of his four-year-old Ferndale shop.
Hughes certainly hasn’t let the extra room go to waste. Walking through the store, shoppers will encounter two-wheelers of countless shapes, colors and sizes. Those seeking mountain bikes, BMXs, road bikes, fixed gears, city bikes or cruisers are sure to find them hanging from the store’s rafters or lined up in neat rows under its roof.
The shop specializes in Jamis and GT bikes, while offering an additional inventory of about 15 other brands. A selection of skateboards, t-shirts and a wide range of cycling accessories like saddlebags and water bottles are also on hand.
While Detroit is already home to several other bike shops and spaces, Hughes, who loves the city’s cycling scene, believes there’s more than enough room for a full service shop with the sort of inventory he provides.
“We’re a community. I don’t see the other shops as competition. If people want to rent a cruiser, we’ll send them to the Wheelhouse. If I see someone who needs something from the Hub, I’ll send them there,” he said. “But we’ll be able to offer things, because of our other bike shop and the supplier connections we have, other shops anywhere in Michigan can’t get,” he said.
Hughes thinks his shop’s emphasis on fixed gears will fill a much-needed role in Detroit. He adds that he’s one of only three dealers of Jamis on this side of the state and has connections with all the BMX manufacturers.
The bike shop also offers parts and a highly experienced crew of mechanics.
“For Detroiters, you’ll be able to get everything you could get in the suburbs without going all that way. So the guy working at Quicken or the person down the street can just come down to Eastern Market,” Hughes said. “As long as you’re out there [riding], we’re cool with it. Whatever you need we’re going to get you set up with it.”
The store is also interested in serving a community role. Hughes and his father were involved in an effort to organize a Gran Fondo ride between Detroit and Pontiac this year. Though the official ride was canceled, organizers are working towards making it a reality in 2014. The bike shop is also helping sponsor an initiative to provide local bars and restaurants with bike repair kits.
While some have referred to the new bike shop as a pop-up, Hughes thinks of it as a more permanent space.
Although he’s fairly settled on the location, he wants to see how the market responds.
Last year, he tried a pop-up at the Compuware building, but business was lackluster. The foot traffic in Detroit’s Eastern Market district, however, is much better. Hughes estimates the store gets anywhere from 10 to 100 visitors on weekdays; a number that climbs into the hundreds on the weekends. He’s signed a lease until September and says he’ll know by then whether the location will work.
“As of now I think we have a good chance of being a permanent shop. I want to stay here. That’s the hope.”
The Detroit Downtown Bike Shop is located at 1420 Fisher Freeway East in Detroit. See here for hours of operation.