Now open: Comrade Cycles | Bleader

Now open: Comrade Cycles



If the name Comrade Cycles evokes visions of communist ideals, it's intentional. The new bike shop is worker-owned and, according to the "shop manifesto" on its website, inspired by a desire to create a positive work environment. Owners Jesse Hautau, Bailey Newbrey, and Steve Parkes have all worked in the bike industry for years, both at for-profit shops and for cooperatives and other philanthropic enterprises including the Recyclery, Working Bikes, and West Town Bikes. They wanted their own place, though, and have been working since December on building out their Ukrainian Village shop (1908 W. Chicago, 773-292-2522). It opened March 1.

Things are going pretty well so far, Hautau says, though of course it's early days yet. They aim to be a neighborhood bike shop, selling mostly utilitarian bikes—"stuff you can put racks and fenders on and commute to work." All three of them race cyclocross, and that's another focus of the store. More than that, though, they're looking to create a social enterprise, a place the bike community can gather. "Happy workers make happy customers," Hautau says, and he believes that giving workers a stake in the shop will make them more motivated.

Comrade Cycles is modeled after Citybikes in Portland, which opened in 1986 and became a worker-owned cooperative in 1990. It currently has 25 workers, 11 of whom are co-owners. So far, Comrade Cycles has just the three founding owners, but there's one other employee working his way toward ownership.

Decisions are made unanimously—"which can be trying, but it's working," Hautua says. "It's usually the silly stuff that's the hardest. All of us have been in the industry so long that the day-to-day running of the bike shop is the simplest. We know what works, and we definitely know what doesn't work. Avoiding the things that we've seen done incorrectly has been easy. but picking what color to stain the hardwood is sometimes a late-night e-mail frustration."

Some photos of the shop are below (all by me). For more information on the store, check out John Greenfield's recent article in NewCity.







A coffee blend made specially for Comrade Cycles by Resistance Coffee, which they both serve and sell by the pound.