Chicks, Bikes and Brooklyn: A Woman-Owned Bike Shop in a Changing Neighborhood

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Chicks, Bikes and Brooklyn:  A Woman-Owned Bike Shop in a Changing Neighborhood

As I pet two curled-up, matching black cats, KT Higgins gets up to grab the ringing phone that sits in a pile of bike tools and unopened gear. “Bike Shop,” she says, and answers a few questions before sitting down with the cats and me.

In its six months of existence, this unassuming building on DeKalb Avenue has been called “Brooklyn Bikes,” “Bike Shop” and, most recently, “Velo Bikes.” With nothing but a hanging canvas sign to mark its place, this one-room, woman-owned bike shop is evolving as rapidly as the neighborhood it occupies.

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“I’m that person with the very ugly bike all the time,” KT tells me, as we chat about the aesthetics of our bikes (She doesn’t technically own one.) and of our gentrifying, formerly German, formerly Italian, soon-to-be-formerly Latino neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. She likes the neighborhood because “it’s great for cyclists” and, frankly, there aren’t too many affordable places left in New York.

Empty soy milk and beer bottles line the front counter as a pile of vintage, rehabbed and custom bikes dominate the room. Her shop is a part-time gallery space in the evening and the left wall is consistently lined with provocative, if not downright dark, artwork. With a stash of gear that any Bushwick hipster would drool over, fluorescent bar grips and pink road rims are on display, with colored chains, tires and every shape of handlebar your brain can muster.

With the bike culture of New York steadily moving Eastbound, it’s no wonder that the neighborhood once known for blackouts, riots and crackheads is slowly becoming the new haven for 20-somethings and their fixed-gear Bianchis. Guilt of gentrification aside, it is rare in cycling cities to find more than one woman working at a bike shop. It is even rarer to find a shop that is woman-owned. “At my first job at a bike shop 10 years ago, I was the ‘sales chick.' There were no other girls working there,” KT laughs. “I was a bike messenger, so I got a job as the sales chick to get free tires.”

Since then, KT worked her way from “sales chick” to bike mechanic at a slew of Manhattan shops before heading to Brooklyn, where she now lives in the garden apartment below her shop. While she loves her space in Bushwick, she hopes that “we’re not bought out of this neighborhood either.”

The tough part of owning your own business, after all, is forking over the rent that’s due when the trendy kids move in. That gentrification thing: it’s bittersweet.

Saving the pretentious bike-repair attitude for Manhattan, KT has a knack for getting to know her customers. Unlike a typical bike shop with staff that waits for you to come to them, KT is always talking to a customer. “Our shop is all about service, and we teach as we work. We’re not gonna judge you when you come in, and we avoid those strict bike shop rules that alienate people from the cycling community.”

The shop will take your used parts donations to keep beater bikes on the road, and she’s not afraid to give a freebie every once in awhile. It’s the “not charging you for every little thing” that makes her shop unlike any other shop in the city. But she’s a pretty good sales chick, too.

Velo Bikes is located @ 1342 DeKalb Ave, between Myrtle and Wilson in Bushwick, NYC.



Comments [20]

Eli's picture

Rachel, I am KT's landlord.

Rachel,
I am KT's landlord. she's great and i'm very happy she's so busy.
we have a small space available across the street from her. if you've ever thought about opening a "Babeland in Bushwick" we should have a talk...

KT's picture

Thanx for such a sweet

Thanx for such a sweet article Sarah!! www.velobrooklyn.com is our website, it still needs lots of work. It's a slow winter, so come by and keep me company and I'll show you how to work that wrench. Velo Brooklyn Bushwick Bike Shop!

Tex's picture

Oh Yonks, you and those

Oh Yonks, you and those tools! Laughing out loud

Twitter Time @kdhales

yonks's picture

(for the update video link)

(for the update video link) It would be great if we can see the lady work on a bike, we want to see how she use that wrench...

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

rovermom's picture

In this case a beater would

In this case a beater would be an old bike that just keeps on going and going and going...

I have a Fuji Monterey, I think it's a 1983, or maybe it's an 1982 year. I had 2 of them, but when i was moving back home from Indiana I ended up dropping it off at a donate site.

I had second thoughts like a few hours later.......and it was goooooone. It was a baby blue men's...and i still have my other, which is a black w/ white handle bars women's. The baby blue men's was my favorite. The men's is a year younger then the women's. It's an updated version, slightly different.

I found a bike shop here in san diego. mainly they fix up and resell....expensive, but I do believe they do a good job in reclaiming old bikes.

Grace Moon's picture

Nice to see you here

Nice to see you here Rachel!
xo

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Steph H's picture

Thanks Tae! LOL at "best

Thanks Tae!

LOL at "best worn bra less by a built babe"...... Smile

minniesota's picture

That sounds like the coolest

That sounds like the coolest bike shop! Best of luck to KT.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Not2Taem's picture

LOL - or a sleeveless ribbed

LOL - or a sleeveless ribbed undershirt, best worn bra less by a built babe.

Rachel Venning's picture

love this story! I wish all

love this story! I wish all success to KT- KT if you want to drop some flyers in the Babeland store, come do it. Let's send our customers to each other. My thoughts on setting up shop in a gentrifying neighborhood- try to get a lease with some longevity to it.

little_earth's picture

I want to go! My girlfriend

I want to go! My girlfriend is way into bicycles (always working or fixing one) and when we go to shops in some places she gets treated like crap by snobby cyclists who think she probably has no idea what she is doing. She may not use the exact word to describe a part but they don't have to be rude about it.

So it is nice to see a bike shop, not only woman owned, but is "Saving the pretentious bike-repair attitude for Manhattan." Way to go!

Lots of Love - little_earth "Occasionally, I'm callous and strange" - Willow

Tex's picture

I so dig meandering around in

I so dig meandering around in bike shops - they lure me in on every walk by......need to get mine off the rack and get it road ready for warmer weather......good karma to KT

Great human interest,

Tex

Twitter Time @kdhales

Steph H's picture

Oh I see, what we like to

Oh I see, what we like to call "knackered".

Thanks for that, I shall lob that one into conversation at some point!

Grace Moon's picture

any thing that is beat up,

any thing that is beat up, broken down, like a car usually.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Steph H's picture

Excuse my ignorance but what

Excuse my ignorance but what on earth is a "beater"?? Smile

Erin Blackwell's picture

i know what a fixie is cuz i

i know what a fixie is cuz i live in insane SF but i bet a bunch of your readers don't.
the point is with LINKS you don't have to explain nothing. but very well sweetheart have it your way.

Anon's picture

Thanks, Blackwell. I think

Thanks, Blackwell. I think I'll have to save the details for the 2000-wd version. All you need to know is that people who ride fixies in S.F. are freaking insane. That's all you need to know.

Erin Blackwell's picture

wow i thought you only did

wow i thought you only did virtual but this beautifully written, lively hommage to the 3D i couldn't stop reading.

i just wish you'd indulge in links to explain in-concepts like fixed gears for the out-of-it or even groups like
http://www.sfbike.org/
although you'll tell me inapplicable because west coast

Kristin's picture

www.velobrooklyn.com

Grace Moon's picture

I'm so going to visit KT, and

I'm so going to visit KT, and fix my beater.

tweet tweet @gracemoon