Made in Uptown: Uptown Bikes

For years, Uptown Bikes has been popular with cyclists who flock her for more than just parts and service. Uptown United spoke with owner Maria Barnes about growing community and the expansion to a satellite pop-up store.

In early 2016, Uptown United worked with 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman and the CTA to help Uptown Bikes open a seasonal pop-up store in a vacant CTA concession space adjacent to the Argyle ‘L’ stop. Staffed by an experienced mechanic from mid-April to mid-September, the pop-up shop offered basic parts, accessories, and a full range of mechanical services.

As a long-time Uptown resident and business owner, the pop-up was an exciting opportunity. The recent curbless Argyle Shared Street redesign and CTA’s slated Red Ahead Project meant that it was an opportune time to have a presence on Argyle Street. And to her, having a bike shop next to an ‘L’ station was common sense since pairing bikes with public transit is the kind of good urban planning that is in common in other cities.

Plus, the minimal space was fitting for the idea and Maria was enthusiastic about interacting with neighboring Argyle businesses – she could send customers to nearby bakeries, restaurants, groceries, and gift shops while they waited for their bike repairs. And having the pop-up shop just three blocks from the main shop on Broadway means it’s convenient to shuttle back and forth for supplies. Moreover, a lot of locals were excited to see Uptown Bikes utilize the long-vacant storefront and the pop-up was often buzzing with activity. After a busy five-months, the shop returned in the Spring of 2017 for a second successful year and will return in Spring of 2018.

While Maria knows brick-and-mortar may seem old school, it is part of Uptown Bikes’ identity. For Uptown Bikes, competing with online retail is not the point. Instead, she and her staff work hard to build relationships with everyone who comes through their doors and to emphasize service and education. The goal is to provide customers peace of mind, to treat everyone with respect, and to offer each customer Uptown Bikes’ many years of experience. It’s all part of being a good neighbor – an approach that has made Uptown Bikes much-loved in their 20-plus years and is sure to serve them well for many years more.