Bikes, Transit, and Community: Uptown Bikes’ Pop-Up Shop

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.

For Uptown Bikes owner Maria Barnes, the pop-up was an exciting opportunity. For a long-time Uptown resident and business owner, the innovative Argyle Shared Street design and the CTA’s Red Ahead Project meant that now was an opportune time to have a presence on Argyle Street. “It’s a gem of a neighborhood. A lot of the people who live and also own businesses on Argyle have long roots in the neighborhood.” And, according to Maria, having a bike shop next to an ‘L’ station made sense since pairing bikes with public transit is the kind of good urban planning that’s in practice 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 made it 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 is slated to return in Spring of 2017.

What’s next for Uptown Bikes?

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 Uptown Bikes’ many years of experience. For Maria, being a good neighbor is key, 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.

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Why be a Chamber member?

“You often don’t see the benefits of a Chamber until you need it, but Uptown United certainly came through for me and my business, specifically in making connections with the CTA and Alderman Osterman, as well as facilitating construction meetings between the CTA and business owners on the 4600 block of Broadway.”

“Having the Chamber as a liaison has been phenomenal. During a challenging year, Uptown United has really been supportive. They truly want to engage with the neighborhood on many levels. They are a tremendous resource.”

Regarding Uptown United’s events, Maria called this summer’s “Lawrence Jaunt” bike rides a“wonderful experience that brought a crowd to the pop-up shop and was a lot of fun. [There was] such a delight about some of those events that was heart-warming – a chance to meet your neighbors. Who knew the Chamber could be a conduit for that?”