Now Open: Comrade Cycles, a Worker-Owned Bike Shop

By at March 2, 2012 | 5:00 pm | Print

If the faces behind Comrade Cycles look familiar, it’s because all three comrades involved in the new worker-owned bike shop at 1908 W. Chicago Ave. in West Town’s UK Village previously cut their teeth as mechanics at other local shops, such as Wicker Park’s Rapid Transit, Working Bikes in Pilsen, Johnny Sprockets, and the Evanston-based Recyclery.

The only difference between their new gig and the previous ones, though, is that today they own and operate their own full-service neighborhood bike shop, and share profits amongst the three of them, not unlike a co-op business model.

“It’s exciting and a little bit scary, too,” Bailey Newsrey said to The Pipeline earlier today as he worked on fixing a broken peddle bracket on a Schwinn Varsity bike, one of Comrade’s first repair jobs on their second day of business (a grand opening celebration was held yesterday, per this Chain Link post.)

The bike with the broken peddle had been brought in earlier that morning by a friend of Bailey’s who works at High Dive, a few doors north of Comrade. It is this sort of local customer that the cycle shop plans to attract and service, as the area in and around Chicago Ave. becomes more bike-friendly, with local workers and residents using bikes for commuting as well as pleasure.

The idea to own and operate their own shop began germinating about a year ago, per Jesse Hautau, whose been working as a bike mechanic for the better part of eight years, most recently at Working Bikes in West Town. “When you’ve been a bike mechanic since you are a teen, you want to open your own shop,” Jesse, who’d initially met Bailey at Rapid Transit where they’d worked together for a couple of years, said.

After three years as a Rapid Transit mechanic, Bailey left Rapid last year for Johnny Spockets, but remained in touch with Jesse. Comrade’s third partner, Steve Parkes, most recently worked at the Recyclery in Evanston and was a regular volunteer at Working Bikes, where he met Jesse.

The three men, who all live in different neighborhoods– Bailey and Jesse live in nearby Logan Square and Humboldt Park, while Steve’s in Rogers Park– share the daily duties of operating the shop and servicing customers. The location on Chicago Avenue was chosen this past fall after the trio drove around neighborhoods that they thought could use a new bike shop.

Four months ago they settled into the space at 1908 W. Chicago, just east of Damen, previously occupied by a dry cleaners and Laundromat. After painting the walls, sanding the floors, obtaining a business license and ordering accessories and inventory from manufacturers that they were familiar with like Surly, Electra, Torker, and All-City, they were ready to open on March 1st as planned. Bike prices range from $400 to $1500, and a wide menu of services and costs are detailed on a colorful chalkboard. All assessments are free.

“We wanted to make sure that we were open and had everything we needed before the [summer] season kicks in,” Jesse said.

It looks like the comrades accomplished their first mission. Interested in popping by, too?

Comrade’s hours of operation are Monday- Thurs 10AM-8PM, Friday 19AM-7pM, Saturday 10AM-6PM, Sunday 11AM-5PM.  Ph: 773-292-2522.


Thanks to a Pipeline reader, Greg, who asked us if we knew anything about a new bike shop opening on Chicago Ave. a few weeks back. We didn’t, but en route from a meeting near Comrade earlier today we’d noticed that this must be the place Greg was talking about!


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