MILWAUKEE (BRAIN) — After just over a year in business, Coast In Bikes is the first IBD in Milwaukee to add a café space to its retail store. Owners Carolyn Weber and Tristan Klein relocated the store to a new building in December, and are in the process of opening a coffee shop and café in the back of the store.
Coast In Bikes, which opened in April 2013, was originally located in a small business incubator space owned by an organization called Bucket Space. “The rent was really low and it was such a great way to get started,” said Weber. “Bucket Space also provided a lot of other support, which let us really focus on getting the shop up and running.”
Opening a café and coffee shop inside of the bike store was always part of the plan, said Weber, who has a background in commercial baking. “The first space was great, but it did have its drawbacks, including not having windows,” she said. “We knew we couldn’t really settle in there and do everything we wanted to do.”
In their current 2,000 square-foot space, Weber and Klein are in the process of obtaining the permits, licenses and funding necessary to run a full-scale coffee shop and café in a 400 square-foot room in the back of the store. In the meantime, Weber said they are serving French press and pour over locally roasted coffee on a customer donation basis. “We really want to provide a space to hang out before or after a ride,” she said. “So for now, we’re doing what we can until we can build a full café.”
Besides the café and bike shop, Weber and Klein have their sights on opening a hostel, which will be Milwaukee’s first. Once the café is fully functional, Weber said she plans to focus her efforts on getting the hostel going. She is in the process of finding the right building close by.
Coast In Bikes sells bikes from Surly, Torker, Xtracycle and Linus. The full-service repair shop also has community work stands available for use, and Weber said there is almost always at least one person working on their own bike in the store. “We want that kind of environment, where people feel comfortable and want to hang out,” she said. “And I think the coffee shop and café will really be appealing.”
Besides creating a welcoming atmosphere, Weber said that having a coffee shop, café and hostel also make good business sense in seasonal climate. “Owning just a bike shop in the Midwest is really tough,” she said. “It’s a good idea to diversify.”
As year-round riders themselves, Weber and Klein provide winter cyclists with the gear they need. “Not too many shops here have a full stock of inventory for full-season cyclists,” said Weber. “We will have plenty of winter and commuting gear.” With a goal of not directly competing with existing shops, Weber and Klein seek to complement instead. “I love high end road bikes and electronic shifting,” Weber said.
“But we can’t do everything, especially when there are so many other shops here who do that already. Instead, we’ll cater to niche markets other shops aren’t going after, like the touring crowd. We already do a fair amount of pannier business, and no one else really does that here.” Because of its location near downtown Milwaukee hotels, Weber said she also sees opportunity unpacking and building shipped bikes for business travelers or cyclists coming for events.
Weber, who has also worked as a mechanic and a service writer, plans to offer a number of what she calls ‘fireside chats’ in the store or café once it’s operational. The educational seminars would include everything from bike maintenance and fit to bikepacking.