NYC Velo is one of New York’s premiere bike shops. Located in the heart of the East Village on Second Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets, the store provides true biking connoisseurs with a selection of bicycles that range from industry standard brands to bikes that are nothing short of works of art. For nine years, NYC Velo has offered New York residents superior customer service from a highly trained staff.
This past December, NYC Velo opened a second location in the new Gotham West Market in Hell’s Kitchen on the west side of the city. We spoke to Andrew Crooks, the supremely passionate and knowledgeable founder of NYC Velo to find out more about the new location and his goals for the store going forward.
Why was now the right time to open up a second store location?
The Gotham West development people approached me and throughout our conversations it became obvious that I was going to have a partnership with the landlord that doesn’t exist very often in New York. Basically, they were very serious about having a bike shop featured as an essential part of the Gotham West Market and that’s why we got involved. They want the Gotham West building to be a “green building” that promotes an active and healthy life style, which is something we very much align with.
How does the bike concierge service that will be offered in the building fit in?
We’re managing the bike storage of the residents who live in the residential part of the building. We have a lot of clients who live in very nice buildings who have had issues with their belongings disappearing from bike rooms so this is something where it’s very secure; we’re accountable and it’s managed very well.
Can you explain the bike tours that are going to be offered at the new store?
Those will be New York area rides that our staff will lead. We’ve been doing shop-led rides for years from the East Village store. We’ve done a lot of single day rides where we transport clients up to the Catskills or the Berkshires where we are in different terrain and there are interesting, safe and challenging roads that people don’t get to ride very much if they are sort of city bound. There are going to be some rides that we’re going to try and tailor to residents of the building that will be driven by what exactly they want. One of the things we have been talking about is a bike tour of some of the original locations of the food vendors that are featured in the Gotham Market. The true relevance of the Gotham Market is that it has such great access to the Hudson River bike path, so it’s much easier to lead a ride that only has to navigate one block of city traffic to get to that path.
How will the rides be organized?
The rides will be on Saturday mornings and meet at the Blue Bottle store in the Market. We’re talking with the other stores that are open early to see if they can feature one “pre-ride” menu item for our riders to eat before going on what will typically be a three-hour trip. But there will be options for riders of different abilities if they don’t feel up to that length of a trip.
What are the main differences between the two stores?
The new location is going to allow us to put on a lot more events and social gatherings. The other thing is that our concierge service for the residents is going to be open for up to sixteen hours a day; and the concierge service is located in the same space as our service station, which means that our mechanics will be available for that same window of time. Basically, our clients can drop off their bike for service in the morning and still be able to pick it up at night. We have a lot of customers who work from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM, which means getting to a bike shop between 11:00 AM and 8:00 PM doesn’t work that well. But we’ll have concierge and mechanic service open from about 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM so hopefully that window will work for them. It’s going to be a challenging undertaking, but we want to produce the kind of work and service that our customers expect.
How much say did you have in the design of the new store?
My education is in engineering and I have a lot of friends that are architects so I wanted to make sure that the form met the function. In addition to the glass storefront, we have one wall with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that looks into the Market. The bike shop is actually a foot and half higher than the rest of the Market. The ceiling heights top out at about 17.5 feet. The store has a very bright and airy feeling that is different than most retail spaces. At one point in the project, Gotham brought on AvroKO to develop all of the Market spaces. I met with them a few times and we gave them suggestions for a basic floor plan and flow as well as a list of elements we would need in the store. The actual look of the space, the shelving and the lighting design was all AvroKO. We ended up building out some of the displays that didn’t make it onto the final build list just to kind of finish off the space a bit—things that are just very specific to certain products. We’ve been very happy with the design and how it has worked with the actual use of the space.
What events are coming up at the Gotham West location?
The first weekly ride is going to be in two and half weeks. After that, there are a series of professional races in Belgium that start up in a few weeks that are referred to as the Spring Classics—very grueling single day events that don’t get the same attention as the Tour de France but are taken very seriously by bike enthusiasts. We’ll be working with the guys at the Cannibal for some events related to watching those races live in our store. We’ll also be working with El Colmado for viewing parties for Spanish based races and events. And we’ve been talking to Ivan Ramen about some of the Japanese based events. The most prominent of those happen in the fall. Those are just some of the most obvious tie-ins based on the country of origin of the food those vendors serve. Also in the beginning of April we’re doing a book signing for a man named Bruce Weber who is a writer for the New York Times. We got him set up with a bike to do a cross-country ride a few years ago. He did a blog column on it but he also wrote a book called Life is a Wheel and we’re going to do a launch party for him on April 1.
All photos courtesy Melissa Hom.
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