It is misleading to call Heritage Bicycles General Store a bike shop, because it’s so much more: a space where locally handcrafted bicycles are built, a beautiful retro-inspired café and a community gathering place.
Owner Michael Salvatore opened the Chicago shop’s doors for business in late January 2012. It’s no secret that coffee and bikes are a great combination, and according to Salvatore, “No matter where you are in the world, there are going to be bikes and coffee – they’re universal.”
Heritage Bicycles sells only its Heritage line of bikes. Vintage-inspired and locally produced, the three models include the flagship mixte Daisy, the Schwinn-inspired Goblin and the diamond-frame Chief. Built, welded, painted and assembled in Chicago, Salvatore refers to their production system as “hyper-local manufacturing,” a type of assembly that supports local industry and results in a lower carbon footprint.
Want your bike to stand out? Not a problem. Shop staff helps people customize their bikes all the time. “If someone wants a different set of handlebars, a rack added or a custom paint job, we can do that,” Salvatore explained. “Each bike is a unique experience.” And if you’re up for it, you can grab a latte and watch your bike being built.
The staff at Heritage Bicycles cultivate an open, welcoming atmosphere for everyone, including women. Salvatore sees everyone from 20-something roadies who stop in for a drink after a ride, to students, local couples and families.
The shop and retail space were designed with a DIY work ethic. Salvatore explained, “We got our hands dirty. We used reclaimed wood for the tables, installed retrofit lighting and made our own chandeliers.” The result: an open, mixed-use space with Americana decor and retro highlights. Salvatore likens his shop to a theatre: “Every day there’s a different play going on – a different bike being built – right before your eyes.” As a bonus, Heritage Bicycles is conveniently located near Chicago’s bike superhighway, the Lakefront, and features a brand-new city parklet right outside its front door.
As part of Salvatore’s commitment to community outreach, Heritage Bicycles works closely with Active Trans, Chicago’s citywide cycling program, and takes youth interns, who get one-on-one time with the mechanics. If you check out Heritage Bicycles on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll find that store events – Wednesday night rides, outdoor movie nights and live music – are a huge part of what goes on at the shop.