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Friday, May 18, 2012

Downtown's DIY Bicycle Shop

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Evan Pack is founder and executive director of Vulture Space, the bicycle collective and community workshop that recently opened in a vacant Plankinton Avenue storefront in the Grand Avenue Mall.

What is a bicycle collective?

It's a do-it-yourself shop that anyone can use. We're volunteer run, everything is donated, and everything is free.

I want to reemphasize “Open to everyone.” Black, White, Latin, Asian, young, old, children and adults, commuters, roadies and the fixed gear kids. Couriers have been coming around en masse already. This is the first official day, but people have been coming in all week - even if it's just to use a wrench and hang out.

The idea is simply to get people to bicycle more. More bikes are sold each year than cars. Yet, way more people drive. So where are the bicycles? In basements, garages, and just generally not being used. So bring them here, and we will get someone on them. Either you, or someone else.

The hope is also that, in helping people fix their own bicycles, they will ride more. Some people won't ride, because, for instance they don't change flats, don't know how, and are afraid of getting a flat somewhere. And then what? They're stuck or stranded.


We provide all the equipment free. We have three bicycle stands, as of right now. We have all the wrenches you could ever need. We can show you how to fix things. And we have maintenance books here, in case we don't know how.

What do you offer that no one else does?

Well for one: location. This is the hub of Milwaukee. And there's not a bicycle shop for miles. Yet, this is the core of the commuting community and the epicenter of bicycle messengers.


We'll also have Milwaukee's first bicycle vending machine. My friends Adam and Dawn already hit it with stencils. We're going to use it for a bicycle-themed art show June 1 at MOCT.


Bicycles come out of the vending machine?

Bicycles don't come out. Bike parts do. Especially tire repair parts: patch kits and tire levers, patched tubes for like $2, and new tubes for more. There's an air compressor, too. So you can patch and fill your tires on the spot. A 24-hour bike-repair vending machine. We're going to put it in front of our store.


We're also offering Milwaukee's first valet bicycle parking. We're open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays; perfect for commuters. We've got hooks in the back. It runs on donations. Maybe $1 recommended? But say you don't have money on you that day or whatever. That's cool, get us next time. Hit us with a $5. If you've got a flat or slow leak, that's twice the reason to bring it here.


Why Vultures?

Vultures like scraps of discarded things. That's us. That's what we are.


Everything has been found or donated. My buddy Dan Dreke just came up from New Orleans to help us get started. He's number one. He designed the logo, helped with grant writing and made our display counter from a parking sign that Mo's threw out. We got a bicycle rack from the city after somebody hit it with a car on Brady Street. We're going to grind and flatten it, paint it gold and throw it out front.


Stone Creek has been great. They're turning their roasting facility (at N. 5
th St. and St. Paul Ave.) into a café. They've given us a lot of wood, a storm window - which we turned into a display case- a work bench, and over 50 gallons of paint; all different colors.

We're also into bicycle art work and reclamation. So even if your bicycle is utterly beyond repair, we'll still take it. Bring it in. When wheels are jacked, we pull the spokes out, pull the hubs out, and maybe the bearings. We'll use the frame. We've got people making wild bicycles: tall bikes, double bikes, swing bikes. We've got people doing sculpture with frames, and using ripped tubes for jewelry, belts, and wallets. We're hanging display cases with old bicycle chains that we painted gold.


What else can you use?

We can use people, for sure. Volunteers, always. More artists, too. We painted big portions of wall space white - as canvases. We're welcoming any artists – so long as the work is bicycle or vulture themed. Our buddy Armen already did one.


Speaking of art - we're offering shelf space to artists, too. Our girl Vanessa crochets. Like really crochets. She is master of the crocheted bike lock. My buddy Shaggy, a courier downtown, makes messenger bags, wallets and hip pouches. He specially designs panniers too. Anybody with bicycle crafts is welcome to sell here.  We just ask for a 20% overhead commission - which is totally more than fair.


Anything You Can't Use ?

No.


Well (…pause…)


just a bad attitude, I suppose.


How do you plan to keep the doors open?

It's sort of like public radio. You can listen for free, but we'd ask that you get a membership. $20 a year, with a membership card that gets you discounts at area businesses.


The Grand (Avenue mall) has worked very closely with us, and cut us an incredibly good deal. They even threw in window display on Wisconsin Avenue and a kiosk inside the mall.


We're also refurbishing bicycles and reselling them. At most shops a new bike runs $300 – on the low end. We want to have $20 bicycles available, and nice bikes starting at $100.


We'll also be selling new bells, horns, lights, and locks - at price point. Obviously we'll be collecting donations throughout. And I have a couple ideas for fund-raisers.


What's next?

Ride Your Bike to Work Week!


We'll have mobile repair stations at the Bay View Stone Creek and in Juneau Park. We'll bring tools and show people how to put their bicycles in stands, clean the chain, and make simple adjustments. Then we'll remind them we have three stands at Vulture they can use for free.


We'll also have a bicycle donation drive in Bay View. All day, all week - drop off anything. We'll put it to good use.


And don't forget MOCT's art show June 1.


For more

www.facebook.com/vulturespace

www.vulturespace.org (opening this month) 

phone: 1.414.301.1661

email mcbp.inc@gmail.com