Posts Tagged ‘Burlington’
Photos by Bear Cieri
Two uncommon bike shops flourish in Burlington’s Old North End, less than a block apart. They’re both well-entrenched, but they’ve never been competitors, and their business models are quite different.
Bike Recycle Vermont operates out of a basement, relies on volunteers, sells everything at discount and serves a clientele that can’t always afford to pay. A cashless customer who shows up looking to get a flat tire fixed will likely be put to work on the repair.
Old Spokes Home, which occupies its own freestanding two-story building around the corner and across North Winooski Avenue, is more like a typical retail enterprise, with paid staff, market-rate merchandise and a conventional customer base: people with money.
For years, the two shops maintained an amiable coexistence and had little to do with each other, but then something counterintuitive happened. The basement operation, a volunteer-driven nonprofit that started on a shoestring and came to depend almost entirely on grants and donations, took over its commercial counterpart across the street.
This was not a trivial acquisition. The purchase price was about half a million dollars. The result of this unlikely business deal, proudly announced in January 2015, was a new, combined enterprise, a nonprofit called Burlington Bike Project.
The new entity remains a work in progress, but its creation is a testament to the melting-pot neighborhood that gave rise to it and to its crew of visionary bike enthusiasts — including the shops’ two founders.
Glenn Eames set up Old Spokes in 2000, having left his job as service manager at a downtown bike shop with his eye on a niche market, secondhand bikes. What set Old Spokes apart was its sales focus on the used and the reconditioned. Eames’ venture soon attracted a loyal cadre of customers who relied on bikes as a practical alternative to cars.
“Old Spokes Home is not about sport,” Eames said recently. “It’s about transport.”
The business prospered, but in 2005, Eames learned something that gave him pause: another used-bike outlet would be starting up across the street.
That shop, called Bike Recycle Vermont, was a brainchild of Ron Manganiello. The recycling idea had come to him the year before when he heard from a friend that a Somali refugee in Burlington needed a bike. Manganiello found a castoff Raleigh three-speed that worked fine, so he passed it on. Then he realized that “a gazillion other refugees” resettled in Burlington also could use bikes to get around, so he soon was collecting unclaimed bikes from the police department, hauling them to a mechanic friend to be rehabbed and giving them away.
Whether you’re a lifelong Vermonter, a new resident or simply a visitor to our green state, you’re probably well aware that the Burlington area is a food-lover’s paradise.
But did you know that there’s a now a food-focused walking tour of Burlington?
Burlington Food Tours offers a cultural walking tour of the downtown area, with tasty sampling stops along the way at various vendors at the farmer’s market as well as specialty food shops and area restaurants. The experienced guides also provide some Burlington food history and overview of the area farming and locavore culture along the way.
My friend Jennifer and I decided to take the 2.5-hour tour on a sunny Saturday in July. We met our guide, Andrea, and the other tour participants — a few visitors from Saratoga, N.Y., a mother-daughter pair from Iowa and two other locals, like ourselves — at our first stop, the East Shore Vineyards Tasting Room on Church Street. We were treated to, along with an assortment of local cheeses, a tasting flight of wines, produced locally from grapes grown on Grand Isle. The hands-down favorite among our group was East Shore’s Louise Swenson, a crisp, refreshing white with notes of citrus.
Our next stop was the downtown farmer’s market, which was bustling on such a beautiful day. We sampled wood-fired bread from Naga Bakehouse, organic bitters from Urban Moonshine, honey vodka and elderberry cordial from Caledonia Spirits, sharp cheeses from Shelburne Farms, internationally-inspired pastries from The Nomadic Oven and more, all while enjoying the beautiful sunshine and cool lake breezes.
Another highlight of our tour was a special stop at Pistou, where we were served a delightful caprese-like salad of local heirloom tomatoes and creamy ricotta, prepared especially for our group as the restaurant is not normally open during the day.
The tour concluded with visits to Church Street shops Lake Champlain Chocolates (I can now highly recommend the chocolate milk shake) and the Saratoga Olive Oil Company, where I could have spent hours, sampling all the unique varietal oils and richly-flavored balsamic vinegars.
If you’re looking for a unique way to introduce your out-of-town guests to the gastric delights of downtown Burlington or just want an excuse to be outside, enjoying some delicious treats, drinks and sights on a warm-weather Saturday, check out Burlington Food Tours; be sure to arrive hungry!
All photographs by Julianne Puckett.