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Racked - Are Bike Shops Chicago's New Coffee Shops?

And speaking of foamed milk, if you need coffee before you can even think about tuning up your spokes, head over to Heritage General Store in Lakeview, where excellent coffee is an integral part of the bike store experience. A neophyte customer might suppose they were hanging out in a coffee shop decorated with bike parts; a hardcore biker might insist that Heritage is a bike store that just happens to serve incredible Americanos. Which one is it?

Neither/either, and that's the point. Every element of the Heritage brand strives for the same sort of careful, artisanal aesthetic, and owner Mike Salvatore doesn't feel the need to separate bikes from coffee. "They're both a universal language," he says. If Live Grit and BFF Bikes are there to serve non-biker bikers, Heritage doesn't mind attracting people who don't bike, period. When I stopped by, I saw plenty of hip young things working on their laptops and sucking down cortados with nary a bike lock in sight.

Why coffee, anyway? "No matter where you go in the world, you'll be able to access a bike and coffee," says Mike. "The cultures have come up together. In both worlds, you can be such a geek, such a pro, and know everything about coffee/bikes—but there's also the idea that it's just coffee. It's just a bike. You just want to ride it, you just want to drink it, you just want it to be part of your life."

But you might as well check out the bikes while you're at it, because they're gorgeous. "We hand make our own bikes," says Mike. "We hand cut the steel, we design them, we make them all in Chicago. [The coffee shop] is just part of the larger picture." And this larger picture now extends down the street to Heritage Littles, where your kids can get a custom make bike and/or hang out at the milk and cookies bar, complete with tiny stools. (I know, I know!)

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