Bike café getting in gear
Sip & Spoke bike shop and café gets funding for renovation
On June 29 Noah and Jovanny De Amor smashed through their $50,000 crowd-funding target, securing plans for a bike repair and coffee shop in a historic building in Upham’s Corner.
With matched funding from MassDevelopment, awarded through their Commonwealth Places program, construction on the couple’s latest venture, Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen, will start this month.
“We received small donations from a lot of people who cared,” says Noah De Amor, whose team raised almost $15,000 in the last week.
In total 186 donations were made to Sip & Spoke, some from large corporations, including Eastern Bank, while others were small amounts from individuals, ranging from $25 to $500.
Funding efforts were largely organized by The American City Coalition and the non-profit preservation group, Historic Boston Inc.
Christine Araujo, executive director of The American City Coalition says they are “heartened to see the community support for this revitalization project, one which brings a long dormant building into active use to meet the needs of the Upham’s Corner community.”
Aside from significant donations from The 1772 Foundation of Newport, Rhode Island and Eastern Bank, Noah De Amor says their success belongs largely to the community, the hard work of his husband and business partner, Jovanny De Amour, their employees and the volunteers who have supported their endeavor since they started the Bowdoin Bike School in 2013.
“Every day I wake up feeling so lucky and fortunate to be in this position, but it’s not luck,” says De Amor, “it’s the hard work and dedication of a lot of different people.”
Having city councilor Michelle Wu champion your cause and tweet about Sip & Spoke to more than 21,000 followers also helped raise donations.
The building in which Sip n Spoke will be sited is a one-story 1912 structure originally built as a comfort station — a public bathroom that supported the expansion of streetcar service into Dorchester. In 2015, the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development issued a request for proposals for the redevelopment of the building. De Amor and Historic Boston Incorporated teamed up for the successful bid.
A lifelong resident of Dorchester and Roxbury, tired of passing by the dilapidated building on Columbia Road, Noah De Amor says he is “excited to be a part of a team helping to re-energize the neighborhood.”
Currently located in a pop-up store on the corner of Columbia Road and Dudley Street, Noah De Amor (née Hicks) hopes to make the bike kitchen the business’s “forever home.” The couple will consolidate the bike school and repair shop and run them both from the new location across the street.
The abandoned comfort station will be reimagined by Boston-based design firm, Utile, with room for community functions, open mic nights and music performances. While HBI say that total development costs will reach over $1.4 million, MassDevelopment believe their investment will have an outsize impact on the community in Upham’s Corner.
Kelsey Abbruzzese, director of communications for MassDevelopment, says “it is great news that Sip & Spoke have met their target and [MassDevelopment] are happy to provide them with the funding.”
The Commonwealth Places program that MassDevelopment offer has helped launch 51 local businesses since they started in the initiative in 2016, including a community ice rink in Leominster and the “Beyond Walls Mural Festival” in Lynn.
A common factor among these successful projects, says Abbruzzese, is their “defined and vibrant community element.” She says they are proof that “a small investment can have a big impact, one which multiplies many times over when you have community buy-in.”
And the community is where the team is focusing their long-term efforts. While Sip & Spoke will help save a historic building and hopefully get more locals riding bikes, they want to create a space where not just cycling enthusiasts can hang out. Noah De Amor envisions a hub where people of all backgrounds and interests can connect, without having to pay for a full meal, something, he says, is not currently available in Upham’s Corner.
He hopes the bike kitchen, scheduled to open at 611 Columbia Road next spring, can bring the community together over the relatively low cost of a cup of coffee.
“[Cycling] has no income, age or racial prerequisites,” says De Amor, “we live in such an insular, segregated society and anything we can participate in that helps fix this is beneficial.”