Bike shop goes on the move



March 23, 2018 - 11:00 PM

Daren Baldwin, manager of Iola’s bicycle shop, Velo+, sees cycling as a way to connect people. And he hopes the shop’s recent move to a downtown storefront will lead to more connections between the business, the local community and the entire cycling region from Kansas City to southeast Kansas and beyond.

“If we have a reputation that this is a safe place to ride your bike, people will come here,” Baldwin said. “And, in turn, they’re going to buy food at restaurants, they’re going to buy fuel from gas stations. A lot of them will go ride in the morning and explore the square in the afternoon. Those things pile up and it’s great for our economy.”

The short move to the square from their first location on South Washington Street already brings more traffic into the store, Baldwin said. He estimates the new shop at 17 E. Madison St., the former Town & Country store, attracts three to four times more visitors.

Store owner Marco DeAngelis said he wanted to move to the square to increase the store’s visibility and found the right opportunity with landlord Terry Sparks. The store features large windows to display bicycles and draws motorists’ attention as they wait for traffic.

Velo+ will mark its one-year anniversary in April. DeAngelis recently bought out his former business partner, Vincent Rodriguez.

Other than the location change, much of the shop’s services will remain the same. The store sells a variety of bicycles — road, gravel, mountain and commuter bikes — and accessories. The store also services bicycles, from tune-ups to replacement parts or a complete overhaul; the store works on all types and brands of bicycles, but those bought at the business can be serviced for free the first year.

Baldwin encourages beginners to come into the shop, look around and ask questions.

“I don’t mind spending the time to help someone feel happy about a purchase so they can have that tool they need to go have an adventure,” he said.

The store recently added a children’s program to help families afford bicycles as children grow. A family that buys a child’s bike at the shop can trade it in for the next size bike at a 50 percent discount, minus any cost for repairs on the old bike.

“It’s my attempt to keep kids on the right size bike, for safety reasons,” DeAngelis said.

“It also will allow us to have some used bikes that are more affordable for families,” Baldwin said.

The shop serves as a meeting place for cyclists and volunteers teach classes on things like how to change a tire or how to maintain a bicycle. Cyclists typically gather at the shop before they depart on organized rides.

The shop also sells five special blends of whole bean Messenger coffee.

Both Baldwin and DeAngelis said it’s challenging to operate a bike shop in a small town but they hope it can become a model for other communities. They want people to understand the difference between a bicycle bought at a department store and a higher quality bike. They want people to know about the variety of services.

And, most of all, they want to build a community that supports cyclists who live here and those who visit.

“Cycling is really just all about people,” Baldwin said. “The bikes are just the method by which people get connected.”