Meet the Bike Entrepreneurs Helping to Rebuild Detroit’s Economy

Yes, there is a bike business boom going on in the Motor City. It’s sort of like an authentic version of Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” campaign, except with bikes, and except it’s actually taking place in Detroit.

The crew of Hot Spokes, a Detroit-based bicycle food delivery service. Photo: Detroit News

In an especially poetic twist — which gives us hope for the future of America — these businesses are now setting up shop in buildings that were once testing sites for GM.

Todd Scott at Network blog M-bike.org has compiled excerpts from local media sources that tell the story, beginning with the big scoop in this Detroit News article:

The founder of Fossil Inc. has chosen a New Center [neighborhood] site to make bicycles and watches and is close to signing a lease agreement to sell those goods in a West Canfield Street retail shop in Detroit’s Midtown, according to three sources familiar with the dealings.

Crain’s Detroit talked to the owner about why he chose the Motor City:

[Fossil founder Tom] Kartsotis commissioned a study of pens in which subjects were asked if they prefer pens made in China, the USA or Detroit at price points of $5, $10 and $15 respectively. “People picked the Chinese pen over the USA pen because it was cheaper,” he said. “But when offered the Detroit pen, they were willing to pay the higher price point.”

That’s not all though. A suburban bike shop is setting up a temporary storefront in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood, according to Detroit News:

Jon Hughes sees a lane of opportunity in Detroit. As the owner of Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop, he would like to sign a two-month lease in Detroit for space where he can test the urban trails and side streets for interest by city residents and workers in a full-service, cycling aficionados store.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s office had this comment on Detroit Rickshaw, the city’s new pedicab company (via Detroit News):

Detroit Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis admits he’s never noticed the pedicabs, but said it’s a great idea for a new business that can help the city through its transformation. “As we get more people in the downtown and Midtown areas, you’re going to see more opportunities for the entrepreneurial types in the city,” he said. “We want to have people engaging themselves in Detroit and having fun and enjoying the city.”

Finally, like every respectable bike city, Detroit now has bike delivery services. Here’s the Detroit News on Hot Spokes:

Shayne O’Keefe may not envision himself a businessman, but the 29-year-old drummer for a punk rock band just might be in denial. That’s because a simple idea a few years ago that would allow O’Keefe to pay his rent on Fourth Street in Midtown Detroit and maybe go on tour here and there with his band, Noman, now supports not only him, but five of his friends as well.

Scott says by the end of the year, Detroit may have four operating bike manufacturers within city limits. Talk about a city reinventing itself. Way to go Detroit!

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mobilizing the Region says Connecticut’s next road widening project should be its last. Steven Can Plan covers the kickoff of Bike Belong’s “Green Lane Project.” And Biking in LA recalls a near-death cycling experience caused by an impatient motorist.