Venturing into the Mid-Market area this fall, Huckleberry Bicycles  aspires to go well beyond selling bikes. As co-owners Brian Smith, Jonas Jackel, and Zack Stender launch the first full-service bike shop to open on Market Street, they aim to bridge more everyday riders with bicycle advocacy and provide a much-needed service along the busiest bicycling street west of the Mississippi.
The shop’s simple motto is “Bikes are for people,” and it will specialize in bikes designed for everyday urban transportation. But Stender sees an opportunity to fulfill a greater role in the promotion of cycling.
“Bike shops are kind of this access point where you get to touch every cyclist out there and talk to them personally,” said Stender. “We can be this awesome connection between cyclists and the advocacy world if we want to be.”
Bicycle advocacy will be incorporated into the shop’s everyday conversation, says Stender. As a member of the SF Bike Coalition (SFBC) Board of Directors and an experienced bike shop manager, he feels bike shops typically fall short of engaging in that effort.
“A lot of times, people just need to know that the SFBC is trying to get a bike lane on that street or trying to get bike access in these office buildings, and they’ll be engaged and help. It’s just getting the word out,” he said.
“It’s always been a tough relationship between shops and advocacy. They’re both going for the same goal – getting more people on bikes and to enjoy cycling – but it’s always been a tough issue how they can work more seamlessly together.”
“It takes educating staff and getting them excited about these opportunities to help spread the word,” he added.
That education would be a part of the owners’ efforts to encourage the heavy involvement of employees in the store’s management. “In a lot of shops, employees are stuck with not having much of a say in anything, and we want to involve our staff in the decisions we make,” said Stender.
The shop will be located at 1073 Market near the intersection with McAllister and Jones Streets across from the Civic Center BART Station. Stender said he envisions a full bike commuter station eventually opening nearby that would provide bike parking, lockers, showers, and even coffee.
“We want to serve the folks that are riding to work and the people in the neighborhood,” said Stender. “It’s an area that is in need of a bike shop. It’ll give people an opportunity to stop in Mid-Market where most people are just riding by.”
The owners, who each plan to work full-time at the shop, will begin offering free minor repairs at a sidewalk kiosk during morning commuter hours this summer before it opens. They’ll also be at the SF Arts Market at UN Plaza on Thursdays.
“Huckleberry Bicycles will be a welcome addition to this neighborhood,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SFBC, whose office is located a few blocks down at 4th Street. “It’s fantastic to see more services coming to Market Street to support the growing number of people bicycling on and near our city’s main street.”
Opening their own shop was a dream for Stender and Jackel, who both have over 12 years of experience managing bike shops. Co-owner Brian Smith is leaving his career as an attorney to join them and follow his true passion: promoting bicycling.
“I love what’s happened over the past ten years with cycling and how it’s transformed urban areas,” said Smith. “When I got a closer look at how these groups and people are making the city a better place to live through cycling, it just sort of coalesced for me.”