Designing a Creative, Industrial Workspace

My first shop space was a 10’ x 10’ metal shed in my backyard.  It was cold, leaked and it was powered by a 50’ extension cord snaked from the house, but it was home. After 2 years, an opportunity to lease a storefront around the corner presented itself.  It was less than 500 sf, had no heat, hot water or storage...but it was a real store!

The first shop
The first shop
2010-2011: 7th Ave, Brooklyn

I foolishly imagined that this new shop would be just like my backyard business; a studio-like environment to build bikes collaboratively with my clients.  Was i wrong.  As soon as we opened our doors in November 2011, we became a “bike shop”.  Its sort of like an animal shelter; you cant open your doors and then say “oh no, we don't fix those kinds of bikes”.  Now that we were a full fledged shop, our lack of storage became a HUGE issue (the lack of heat and hot water was a detriment also).  We had so many bikes in as projects and for repairs that I was storing bikes at my house down the street.  We joked that it was our “secure off-site storage warehouse”, but the joke was lost on my family that had to content with 50+ in the ground floor of our house. The logistics of sending a runner to pick up customer bikes was also tiresome and inefficient.   Add into this mix retail display and a bike showroom area, and you can imagine the compactness.  It was like opening a bike shop on a submarine.

With the relationship with our landlord on the wane, and with the prospect of needing to expand quickly, I stumbled upon a space in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Our first storefront on 7th Ave
Our first storefront on 7th Ave
2011-Present: 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn

The first glimpse I had our or prospective new space was a straight shot between a tower of antiques.  The 75’ depth essentially sold me before I stepped one foot in the door (the heat and hot water were a plus!).  The space was naturally divided subtly divided into 3 distinct spaces, front to back, and had a full basement and an additional rear storeroom.

The most important of this space was going to be the design of the work area.  Since our initial shop was so tight, I really wanted to create something that allowed space, access and circulation for our mechanics and clients. I designed an area that had 4 bays with a center island.  This allowed circulation past a bike in the rack, as well as provided a common area at the center for classes of general work.  each bay has its own sets of tools, with less-often-used tools being shared by 2 bays.  Our specialty tools (frame tool, reamers, facers) occupy their own area to the back of the work space. Our main work area also includes a shop sink, a mechanics compute station, spoke storage and small parts storage.

Just as important was designing a storage strategy.  I came up with a system that labeled our components and parts as a 1, 2 or 3.  1’s are things that are sued every day and are stored in the main workspace.  2’s are things that are used maybe every other day, and are stored in our back storeroom, adjacent to the work area. 3’s are things that are used less frequently,a nd are stored in the basement.  Every part gets a number, and is stored accordingly.  the best part is there are no bikes at my house!

Our basement is also organized properly.  This is to facilitate a smooth workflow of bike storage and retrieval, but also is kept very neat as we ofter have clients down there looking at examples of our work.

The same philosophy governs our back storeroom.  In addition, we built storage units for items that are traditionally hard to store (seatposts and tires).

The whole shop is on display, so its organization and upkeep is of utmost importance