NEW ORLEANS (BRAIN) — When Marin Tockman moved from New York to New Orleans in 2010, one of the first things she noticed about the city's bike scene was a lack of shops that made serving women a priority.
"As biking is booming here, I saw it as a gap that needed to be filled," said Tockman. "And I knew I needed to do it."
So in October 2013, Tockman launched the Dashing accessories brand as a stepping stone on the way to opening a full-fledged retail store. Tockman peddled fashionable cycling apparel and accessories for women online and at pop-up shops around New Orleans' French Quarter.
While operating a pop-up last winter, Tockman spied a vacant boutique space next door to Crescent City Bike Tours — at the time the only female-owned cycling business in the city — and jumped on it.
"It's a tiny little French Quarter-sized boutique, only about 400 square-feet," she said. "But it's enough for now." Once the buildout of the store is complete, Dashing will offer fashionable and functional outdoor and cycling apparel, as well as workshops and training specifically for women.
Dashing will also be Louisiana's first Public Bikes first dealer. "The bikes are so colorful, they really match the style of New Orleans," said Tockman. "What I love about Public Bikes is that they are so accessible and vibrant. They really appeal to women."
In collaboration with NOLA Drift, Dashing will sell a few handmade and vintage home goods and furniture items. Partnering with Arrow Café, Dashing will also serve coffee. It will be New Orleans' first bike shop with a coffee bar — something that Tockman feels will help create an atmosphere women will want to visit. "I want the store to be a relaxing space, where women can have a nice retail experience," she said. "It won't be super geeked out with components, but it will be accessible and fun."
Although Tockman's primary focus isn't on the tech, she has the know-how to provide basic bike service in the shop's small repair area. Mechanics at Crescent City Bike Tours next door can help Tockman out with jobs that might fall out of her mechanical comfort zone.
With a background in bike advocacy work, Tockman has her finger on the pulse of the city's bike scene, as well as experience bringing people together to ride. She plans to organize fun rides and offer clinics and other events to empower female cyclists, whether they are just starting out or are already avid riders. "Sharing knowledge has to be a big part of a bike shop," she said. "From learning what clothing to wear to how to adjust your saddle height, the more you can teach someone, the better."
"But I also want to help make the New Orleans community aware that women here ride their bikes. You see everyone from 70 year-old grandmas on their bike with a basket going to the market to avid road racers out for a training ride," she added.
Tockman said that before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had essentially no bike lanes. But as part of the city's reconstruction, around 80 exist now and that number will hit 100 by the end of 2014. "It will be even easier to get more women on bikes if the infrastructure is there, even if it's just to ride to the shop to have coffee," she said. "The more accessible it is, the more people will ride."
Tockman plans to open Dashing following the store's buildout in early March.