Meet Shelly! The woman who made a side hustle into a beloved neighborhood business.
Meet Shelly! Shelly grew up in South Florida and moved to Chester County the summer before entering high school. After enrolling in Temple University in 2000, she has mostly lived in Philly ever since! Shelly majored in film and spent much of her free time in her early 2000’s playing music in a band and touring.
Shelly worked in the restaurant industry to pay the bills: TGIFridays, White Dog, Nodding Head. The restaurant world is where she met many of her good friends, including her amazing partner of 13+ years, Joanna.
When Shelly isn’t running her two bike shops you can find her riding the Broad Street line (for fun!) with her three year old, cooking dinner with her partner, playing ice hockey, and coming up with alternative lyrics for songs. Shelly also loves listening to podcasts. So, next time you swing by one of her shops feel free to share a recommendation!
Shelly’s high school partner, bandmate, and longtime friend, Chris Harne, was super into bikes. They worked for a few bike shops and eventually started to fix bikes in a basement and sell them on Craigslist. Some months Chris would have enough rent and beer money by the 15th and then would take the rest of the month off!
Well, Shelly couldn’t help but wonder if this could be scaled up. She floated it by Chris and they agreed so long as Shelly would handle all the “talking to people” part. They started by renting a warehouse space in Kensington. They would buy bikes from people in the suburbs and bring them back to the warehouse. Chris would fix ‘em, and Shelly would take pictures, put them on craigslist, and field the incoming phone calls and emails. At that time, Shelly was living in West Philly so she was always looking for good bike routes to Kensington from West Philly. She eventually found the route over the Spring Garden bridge, behind the art museum that goes right through Fairmount.
That bike route through Fairmount is what literally put the wheels in motion! “What a great route! What a cute neighborhood! I would stop for coffee at Mugshots on Fairmount Ave on my way, and when I learned that there was no bike shop nearby, I got my heart set on making it happen. I signed up for a business class with Entrepreneur Works, got friends and family to invest, and signed a lease at 2015 Fairmount Ave. 11 years later and here we are!”
Roses and Thorns
“The biggest struggle for me right now is um… capitalism? If wages were based on how much knowledge and skill you needed, bike mechanics would make ten times what the industry currently pays. At the same time, I don’t want bike shop labor rates to be so expensive that only people of a certain income can afford it. So what’s the solution? I don’t know. We started a community card to help address the issue of bike repair being inaccessible to many folks. Neighbors can contribute to our community card, which then helps us be able to repair bikes at a discount without fully eating the cost ourselves.”
“Small businesses like ours have such small margins, and it requires a lot of creativity in figuring out how to make it work. We try to diversify the types of things we do and expand the things that have lower overhead. All that being said, I do love problem solving, and I’m always thinking about how we can make the bike shop better – for customers, for the crew, and for the neighborhood. Sometimes this path that I ended up on feels somewhat random, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s hard to have to choose between family time and shop time because I truly enjoy doing both. Right now, family gets a bit more of my time, and I realize I wouldn’t have that flexibility if I didn’t have an awesome and trustworthy crew of people working at the shop.”