Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bike shop owner sells food, beverages along with gear, expertise in cycling

At 2242 Shelby Street, just a couple blocks north of Garfield Park on the Southside of Indianapolis, a shop opened this year offering a unique combo of retail fare -- bicycles and coffee/sandwiches.

Joe's Cycles had operated in Fountain Square next to Irma's Peruvian restaurant for several years. That shop's owner, Joe Cox (right), was the driving force and organizer of the one and only Fountain Square Grand Prix cycling criterium in 2012. Cox closed the Fountain Square shop three years ago because it lacked the space he needed to accomplish what he wanted to do: Build, repair and sell bicycles -- and operate a coffee shop. Both objectives were important to Cox.

In January, Cox landed at the Shelby Street location, next door to former Indianapolis Fire Station 29, and had a soft opening on Feb. 3 when he joined several Garfield Park area artists and other businesses for their First Friday open merchants' observance.

Three months later, Cox's shop is officially open and operating at almost full force. On his shop's Facebook page, he has a blurb that describes the business as "a boutique with an eclectic mix of bicycle related products, specializing in custom bicycle and wheel building." He doesn't say anything about the food and beverages he serves, but I've been to the shop, and I know that Cox values that aspect of the business as much as his bicycle sales and service.

The shop has a modest display area featuring cycles and gear stamped with the Bianchi brand. Bianchi is the world's oldest bicycle manufacturing company still in operation (it celebrates its 125th anniversary this year). Bianchi has associated with such Grand Tour cyclists as Fausto Coppi, Marco Pantani, Felice Gimondi, Jan Ullrich and Laurent Fignon. In addition to bike sales, Cox does repair and maintenance work on bikes; he has a separate building on the grounds to do that.

Cox acknowledges that bikes and a coffee and sandwich shop might seem an odd combination for a retailer, but he says that's what he did at the Fountain Square site, an experience he so much enjoyed that he wanted to do it again once he found the right location with the right amount of space in the Garfield Park neighborhood, where he happens to live.

Staging the Fountain Square Grand Prix on Aug. 18, 2012, satisfied a longtime ambition of Cox's. In fact, he had imagined -- hoped, really -- that perhaps sponsors and local cycling enthusiasts would be so excited about the event once they saw how it galvanized the historic and burgeoning Indy cultural district that they would jump at the chance of helping to make it a fixture, adding it as Indianapolis' third major cycling criterium (the two others are the Indy Crit in July and the Mass Ave Criterium in early August). The apparent hope to make the FSGP an annual event was so strong, in fact, that I saw promotions of the 2012 Grand Prix periodically described as "the inaugural," as if perhaps the deal had already been sealed to do it annually. Alas, that wasn't the case, but not because Cox didn't try.

Cox said the onus of responsibility -- both in organizing and financing the 2012 FSGP, which featured a program that included outdoor concerts sprinkled throughout Fountain Square the night before the race and quite a few arts and food vendors selling their goods in the heart of Fountain Square on the day of the race -- proved too overwhelming and too much for one individual. Hence, the 2012 FSGP went into the books as the only one. If there is any consolation, Cox does feel he laid the groundwork for how Fountain Square could be transformed for a major event. In fact, he pointed to the Virginia Avenue Folk Festival, which on Saturday staged its second annual show, surpassing FSGP's accomplishment.

When I was at Joe's Cycles for a second visit on May 13, I watched as Cox explained to a newly hired staffer -- a young cycling enthusiast who will be attending Indiana University in the fall -- the intricacies of making an Americano and prosciutto panini sandwich, which is what I had ordered. In the accompanying photo, that's a Caprese salad (left) with my panini. Which reminds me ... all of the ingredients Cox uses come from local merchants. Meats are from Goose the Market, and I forget where he said his coffee and Caprese salads are from, but I do remember him saying that are from local providers. I took all the pictures you see in this post today, using the camera in my iPhone 6s Plus.

When I visited the shop the previous Saturday, May 6, Cox said he was interested in getting more involved in the neighborhood. He already participates in the monthly First Fridays, and he said he was interested in finding ways to introduce his shop, especially its sandwich/beverage offerings, to events held at nearby Garfield Park. He said he already is delivering sandwiches to the Line 'Em Up saloon a couple doors north of his shop, and will avail the shop's edibles to customers of the Garfield Park Brewery (if it is interested in them, of course) when the brewery opens sometime this year a couple doors south.

Right now, the shop's hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed Sundays and Mondays.

The front of Joe's Cycles (above), 2242 Shelby St., which is just north of the former Indianapolis Fire Station 29 (far left), which itself is undergoing renovation by its owner. 

Cox's trainee (above) works the cash register behind the food/beverage counter, where one customer (below) is seated. If there is no room at the counter, customers have the option to sit elsewhere inside (second and third photos below) or, weather permitting, in some cushioned seating outdoors (fourth and fifth photos below).

Above: Some of the Bianchi hats and bottles that Joe's Cycles has available for purchase.

Above: Joe's Cycles is accessible to customers in wheelchairs. This is the ramp to the shop, as seen leaving the shop and looking toward the separate building where Cox does his bike repair work. 

Above: Customers who drive to the shop can park in one of these three spots behind the shop. 

Above: A squirrel peeks between a tree and a figurine in the small landscaped area behind the shop.

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