“I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t on a bike,” Mike Salvatore reminiscences.
Salvatore is the owner and CEO of Heritage Bicycles, and a recent subject of The Frye Company’s “Meet Our Makers” series. Heritage offers the first completely Chicago-made bike since Schwinn left the city in the 1970s. Salvatore and his wife Melissa have married coffee and bike culture into one place, a general store on Lincoln Avenue that smells of bike leather and freshly ground coffee. There, they design and fabricate vintage-looking bikes while also serving as a hip cafe.
The decor is clean and simple, yet warm and welcoming. At first glance, you’ll notice bicycles on the floor and hanging on the walls. There’s a gramophone and a vintage Underwood typewriter. Behind a glass display, there’s a pastry heaven of sweet and savory local treats: donuts, croissants, pies, cookies and bacon biscuits with a side of freshly-whipped butter and blueberry jam. The back room is a boutique carrying anything from helmets and saddles, to t-shirts and jewelry crafted out of recycled bike parts, to backpacks and clothing. There’s a room for repairs in the back.
People want to come in and be part of the experience of building their own bike, says Salvatore, explaining the importance of creating a relationship with the customers. Different bike models —the Chief, the Daisy, the Goblin, the Jane— seem to forge personal relationships with potential buyers, who might spend up to two hours in the store making sure they take home the bike that’s meant for them. Among tandem bikes, loose-leaf teas and blueberry lemonades, Salvatore managed to build a lifestyle brand that exists where hipster aesthetic meets made-in-Chicago craftsmanship—and to create a community able to get their caffeine and bike fix, all at once. (Vasia Rigou)