While the pandemic has forced the business to shift gears, COVID-19 isn’t putting the brakes on Bucephalus Bikes.
Since 2009, Alejandro Añón and his wife, Cecelia Wallin, have repaired, rebuilt and refurbished bikes at the Lake Street shop. All the while, the couple has connected the community through cycling’s merits and called on customers to embrace car-free transport.
“Bike riding is an activity that people can still do while socially distancing yourself from others,” Wallin said. “We’ve certainly seen more demand for both service and the sale of bikes.”
The name of Añón’s full-service shop holds a legacy of adventure. Bucephalus, Alexander the Great’s horse, was said to be exceptionally loyal and brilliant in battle. And in the 1930s, Fred Birchmore rode around the world on a bicycle he called Bucephalus.
Añón, who grew up in Uruguay tinkering with bikes, started what would become Bucephalus Bikes in a garage across from his family’s Evanston home. The former architect is a cyclist through and through: Añón, Wallin and their four sons have lived car-free for over 20 years.
It’s this sense of sustainability that informs the shop’s philosophy. From reconditioning bicycles and selling them at reasonable prices to up-cycling old bike parts into earrings and mobiles, the shop is “service-oriented,” Wallin said.
Personalized service stood out to Leah Silverman when she shopped at Bucephalus Bikes for her son. Silverman’s son has Down syndrome, and low muscle tone related to the condition necessitates a well-fitted bike. Before stepping foot in Bucephalus Bikes, she said she had been struggling to find him a sturdy, suitably-sized bicycle.
But Añón and Wallin, she said, took special care of her son, who was 5 years old at the time. The couple let him hold a wrench, helped him pretend to tighten screws and “(saw) what his individual needs were,” Silverman said.
She and her son left the shop with a helmet, a 14-inch purple and green two-wheeler with training wheels and a “wonderful experience.”
“It was like one of those things you expect in small town America,” Silverman said. “You know, a family experience.”
Bucephalus Bikes is committed to maintaining safe, high-quality assistance throughout the pandemic. Gov. J.B. Pritzker deemed bike shops essential businesses in his March stay-at-home order, but Añón and Wallin have adjusted in-store operations to maintain social distance. The shop is permitting one customer or family in at a time, requiring patrons to knock or call before entering and offering curbside drop-off and pick-up.
In March, adult leisure bike sales in the U.S. were up 121 percent. But Bucephalus Bikes still faces economic challenges unique to small businesses. Business initially slowed in April, which is otherwise one of the shop’s most profitable months. Additionally, delays in the supply chain and production of parts have shrouded the bike retail industry in uncertainty.
But the pandemic won’t cancel biking. Añón and Wallin have spent over 10 years cultivating an appreciation for cycling among Evanston community members. It’s that appreciation that draws the community — both within and beyond city limits — to Bucephalus Bikes, no matter the circumstance.
“It’s great to get around on a bicycle,” Wallin said. “I think that’s what’s been satisfying for my husband and I: seeing more people discover the joys of being on a bicycle.”
Source: The Daily Northwestern
This story is part of a series of profiles of Evanston minority-owned businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.