Iola shop will offer more than bikes

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April 5, 2017 - 12:00 AM

It’s a misnomer to describe Velo+ as a simple bike shop.
As a reflection of its co-owner, Vincent Rodriguez’s, desire to continue expanding his horizons, Velo+ is billed as a shop for bikes, coffee, chocolate … (and sometimes even beer.)
Rodriguez spoke at Friday’s See, Hear Iola session about the shop’s pending opening in the 200 block of South Washington Avenue. A grand opening celebration is planned April 29, with a caravan of riders trekking the 100-or-so miles from Lenexa to Iola.
“We see a great opportunity” to thrive in Iola, Rodriguez said. “We want to serve the need of the people who want to be on bikes.”
With the recent development of the Prairie Spirit, Southwind and Lehigh Portland trail systems, Rodriguez and his team hopes to tap into the growing market of local bicycling enthusiasts.

RODRIGUEZ OPENED Velo+ in Lenexa following his 18-year stint as a regional manager with Starbucks. There, he oversaw the opening of 300 or so Starbucks outlets across the country.
But he also saw room for personal growth, particularly with his love of cycling.
Rodriguez resigned from Starbucks to attend schools for bicycle frame building and coffee roasting.
“I love learning,” he said. “I wanted a challenge to change myself.”
Velo+ will offer a variety of bicycles and accessories, from name-brand vendors plus custom handmade machines.
Rodriguez also plans a number of classes for the do-it-yourselfers, and open shop nights for visitors to come in and work on their projects using Velo+ tools.
“We have a great vibe,” Rodriguez explained, with employees harboring no assumptions about incoming customers.
While some may be well-versed in the cycling world, Rodriguez also notes that many newcomers may not know a derailleur from a sprocket.
“We answer a lot of questions and educate,” he said. “Everybody who comes in is treated with respect.”
There has been one challenge in opening in Iola — finding qualified mechanics.
“One of the ‘aha’ moments was when we realized we’re asking for folks with bicycle mechanic experience in a place with no bicycle shops,” he said.
To overcome such challenges, Rodriguez said staffers from Lenexa will be stationed in Iola until the proper local employee can be fully trained.
And Velo+ loves to celebrate, Rodriguez said.
Every new bike purchase becomes “New Bike Day” with photos posted of the customer and his machine.
“We like to tell your story,” he said. “You should be proud of it.
“And we’ll keep our doors open after we close on some days and allow customers to bring in custom bicycles,” he joked. “All we ask is you bring us some beer or soda or whatever.”

BUT BIKES are just one component.
Since opening Velo+ in Lenexa about four years ago, Rodriguez and co-owner Marco DeAngelis  acquired a state-of-the-art coffee roaster, the first of its kind in the Kansas City area, which is capable of roasting more than 250,000 pounds of coffee beans a year.
Rodriguez has since created his own line of “bikeshop blends,” and has partnered with other coffeemakers in the Kansas City area.
That said, he plans to offer two types of coffee at the Iola Velo+ — hot and cold.
Rodriguez noted Iola already has a perfectly capable coffee shop in town, “and we’re not here to step on anybody’s toes.”
Rodriguez also has branched out as a chocolatier.
Much like with his bikes and his coffee, Rodriguez starts with the raw product, cacao beans, and roasts them with other ingredients to create chocolate.
In addition to their home base in Lenexa, Rodriguez and DeAngelis opened a Velo+ shop in North Kansas City.
Rodriguez lavished praise on Ben Alexander, David Toland, Randy Rasa and others from Thrive Allen County, who were instrumental in developing the trails and just as helpful in assisting Velo+ as it expands to Iola.
“They’ve been huge resources for us,” he said. “It’s great to see how everybody works together.”

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