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Roscoe Village Bikes - Celebrating 10 Years in Operation

Roscoe Village Bikes is located at 2016 Roscoe Avenue in Chicago which is a very appropriate address since the bike shop is celebrating 10 years in operation. First and foremost, it is a local bike shop that serves the needs of bike commuters, recreational riders and families within the Roscoe Village neighborhood. Co-owner and Founder, Lesley Tweedie shared her perspective on starting a business and the changes she has witnessed in bike commuting and operating a retail business over the past decade.

Getting Started on the Bike Shop

During college, Lesley was a bike commuter at the University of Oregon in Eugene which had a significant bike presence. After returning to Chicago, she commuted daily from Roscoe Village to Evanston - a good 8 miles one way. The yearning to run her own business must have been strong since she is a 4th generation Chicago entrepreneur. She and her husband, who raced and worked as a mechanic at another local shop at the time, had talked about opening a bike shop for years. 

Shortly after getting married they turned their dream into reality. Lesley recalls working at the Chicago Food Depository at the time and. continued to do so until they got the shop off the ground. Eventually she transitioned to part-time and after a year had segued into a full-time role at the bike shop. Lesley credits their timing with part of the shop's success, noting that gas prices were soaring and there was no bike shop in the immediate area. 

Bikes Hanging Like Men's Suits

Today, the shop is first and foremost a neighborhood bike shop. Their primary customers are bike commuters although they also serve recreational riders and more serious competitive cyclists. Well situated in Roscoe Village, the shop is a reasonable distance from the Chicago loop and accessible to many north Chicago neighborhoods. They carry popular brands such as Jamis, PureFix and Surly among others.


Bikes now hang from the cabinets originally designed for men's suits.

Lights, socks and helmets are important to commuting. and the shop stocks an abundant selection as well as bags and racks. The physical location was formerly a tailor shop. Lesley and her team have done a wonderful job using the historical fixtures in the store. For instance, the glass and hardwood cabinets that once displayed men's suits now feature rows of bikes.

Trends in Bike Commuting in Chicago

Fast forward 10 years and Lesley shared some of the changes she has witnessed.

The growth of innovative technology such as internal gears and belt drives on bikes, and USB chargers on bike lights.

Fewer messenger bags but a steady popularity for single speed bikes.

More mainstream acceptance of bike commuting and getting around by bike.

She credits the latter with improvements in bike infrastructure and the number of bike lanes as well as the growth of the Chicago bike sharing service, Divvy, Lesley points out that nowadays you can see more people riding and commuting to work, which in turn inspires others to try it. And data shows that more riders means safer streets for riding.

Looking to the future, she sees a need for a larger family focused bike shop with room for more kid's bikes, cargo bikes and trailers. Roscoe Village Bikes offers a lot for families but given space considerations at the current shop, adding more is not yet possible. As someone who has gotten around primarily by bike her desire to travel by bike has not changed since becoming a mom. Her comments echo the remarks of a bike commuter mom and advocate Rebecca Resman who I interviewed earlier this year.

Supporting Independent Bike Retail

As an independent bike shop owner she believes it's special to celebrate 10 years. This is no small accomplishment in an era of big box retailers and the growth of e-commerce, Lesley points out that a local shop has attributes that cannot be duplicated online such as providing service. She notes that one of the bike brands at her store, PureFix, sells directly over the internet but actually suggesting buying from the local bike shop for the service and support.

Lesley notes one negative aspect of the online economy is the phenomenon of show-rooming: people looking at items in the store, asking for advice, trying the products and then making the purchase online.

As I listened to Lesley share some examples of show-rooming, I was struck by the complete lack of awareness of some shoppers. For instance, she shared an example of a person that asked for Lesley's advice on a bike and then stated to her, "I wonder if I can find this cheaper on Amazon", and then proceeded to pull our her phone to search online in front of Lesley.

Lesley is engaged on this issue. She is a board member of Local First Chicago which has a mission of supporting neighborhood economies by promoting the benefits of locally-owned businesses. For example, locally owned businesses contribute twice as much revenue to local charities vs. national chains. Other data points to independent business districts contributing to increased home value, among other improvements to the community. The organization tries to promote awareness of the implications involved in show-rooming. ​

It's good advice, support your local bike shop.

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