Biking and brewed fresh at Heritage General Store
Published: Saturday, October 27, 2012
Updated: Saturday, October 27, 2012 17:10
The chalkboard outside of a Lincoln Avenue storefront reads “bikes + coffee = love.” The same message in illustration form sits atop the cooler inside the café. Bikes and coffee are the heart and soul of Heritage General Store.
Heritage General Store, located at 2959 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, combines local coffee shop with a custom bike and repair store. Calling itself a general store strays from aligning with either side of the business more than the other.
“General store” inspires the shop’s décor as well. Walking into Heritage is like walking into the past; the store is flanked with dark wooden picnic-like tables and decorated with an abundance of vintage pieces. An early 1900s-esque refrigerator is used to keep milk and cream for chilled coffee. The sun streams through the west-facing windows, mixing with the indie tunes played over the stereo to create a unique atmosphere unlike any in Lakeview.
Owner Michael Salvatore, 31, moved back to his hometown of Chicago from New York in August 2011 with the idea of Heritage blooming in his mind. Salvatore owned Bowery Lane Bicycles, a bicycle manufacturing company operating in Queens, N.Y. when the thought began.
“As I developed the business in New York, I started seeing cultures of coffee and cycling overlap,” said Salvatore. “In both markets you’d see a lot of the same people. So when I developed the idea of Heritage, it was all about the community.”
Opening in February 2012, Heritage thrives on local connections in their business. All bikes are manufactured in Chicago for the needs of Chicago bike commuters.
Bikes and coffee not only mesh as a culture at Heritage, the café provides profits for the company during the winter months when bike sales are slow, according to Salvatore.
More than just helping the business, the double business model provides customers with convenience while waiting on bike repairs. Cyclists can get a flat tire fixed for $10 and a cup of coffee while they wait.
The shop offers simple in-store repairs like tire fixes as well as hub overhauls, tune-ups, cleaning and more. Heritage currently sells three models of bicycles ranging from $775 to $1995, all locally handcrafted in Chicago. As with any bike shop, accessories such as baskets, helmets, bells, bags and more are sold. Keeping it local, Heritage sells Po Campo bike bags designed by Chicago designer Maria Boustead.
Cycling and coffee shop culture mixed with an abundance of mustached men and sprinkled with ample Apple products seems like an obvious fit for Wicker Park or Bucktown in Chicago, but Salvatore wanted the shop to be free of any “preconceived notions.”
“I didn’t like the idea of being associated with an already branded neighborhood,” said Salvatore. “But the neighbors, the cycling community and the city have all been great.”
Nicke Hupp, 21, Columbia College student and Lakeview resident, loves having Heritage in her neighborhood.
“It’s like having my own slice of Wicker Park near my apartment; I love it, and I love their coffee,” said Hupp.
The coffee Hupp and many other Chicago residents love is Portland’s Stumptown Coffee, a departure from the oft-seen Intelligentsia and Metropolis in Chicago cafés.
“I knew the Stumptown guys from New York so there was an existing relationship there,” said Salvatore. “Also I knew that no one in Chicago was really doing Stumptown, so a good way to start the business with a buzz was to have this exclusive coffee.”
Barista Delaney Nichols, 23, of Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, has been with Heritage since its beginnings.
“I used to work with one of the other baristas here at a previous job, so both he and our mutual reference referred me here,” said Nichols. “This is the best job I’ve had.”
Nichols’ favorite aspect of the job is the creativity that is fostered in the work environment.
“It’s a very supportive environment to be creative,” said Nichols. “If I want to try something different with the coffee of food or start a special project, I’m supported to do that.”
Creativity is clear in the food and drink menu of Heritage. Standard coffee shop items pop up on the menu, often as their hip vegan counterpart, but the menu also offers a variety of sandwiches and a “brown bag lunch” complete with sandwich, coffee, apple and a baked good.
The bike culture of Heritage turned Nichols from a car owner to a full-time bike commuter.
“I bought an old Schwinn for $45, brought it in here and they fixed it up,” said Nichols. “I have a trailer now too so I can ride with my two-year-old.”
Heritage continues to increase its community ties with special events on the weekend – another aspect of community involvement and support Salvatore strives for at Heritage. October featured everything from a flea market by Blackwatch 68 in the patio area next to the store, a Stumptown coffee tasting and a movie night playing “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
As for the future of Heritage, other locations around the city or country may be in its future.
“The idea of this business it to do hyper-local manufacturing. I’d love to make bikes in different regions of the country for different regions of the country,” said Salvatore. “My idea is to go to L.A. and make vintage beach cruisers, then go down to Tucson and make road bikes.”
For now, Chicago is the lucky city Heritage General Store calls home. Bikes and coffee truly do create love.