DETROIT — Detroit Bike City organizers are at it again, this time with new developments that solidify their existence as permanent stakeholders in the city’s bike scene.
On September 9, Jason Hall and Mike MacKool announced at their weekly Bike-In Theater event they would be taking over the beloved Shack space near the Woodbridge Pub and Woodbridge Community Garden.
Their plan for the former event space? Turn it into a full-service and retail bicycle shop and possibly even develop a bike rental program.
“It came out of the fact that tons of people nowadays e-mail me needing to find a bike for our rides,” says Hall. “It’s about our rides. If we grow into renting bikes city wide, that’s great, but our main concern is our situation.”
Hall says they would like to partner with Detroit Bikes, which makes simple, one-size-fits-all commuter bicycles for $500, both for retail and rentals. As far as other cycling companies, Hall says they’re still looking for dealers to work with.
Woodbridge Pub Owner Jim Geary recently purchased the building and with the help of Hall and MacKool, is looking into zoning requirements for the space, which will likely take shape sometime in the spring of 2013.
Until then, MacKool says they’ll use the space mostly for creative ventures, fundraising and as a home base to do business over the winter.
Detroit Bike City 2013
Now is an especially good time for them, considering the duo is about to launch their sponsorship packet for the 2013 iteration of Detroit Bike City, which is going to be much larger and more elaborate than last year’s event.
They say the inaugural show, which was March 24, 2012, was a huge success despite having only two months to organize it. They drew more than 1,500 attendees.
“It was a terrific first-year event in terms of organization and community response,” says Thom Connors, general manager of Cobo Center.
MacKool and Hall think reaching auto- and boat-show status is attainable. “I’m thinking 30 years ahead,” MacKool says. “I see it eventually growing beyond us — we’re building the show for the city.”
Hall says they want to be the bike show of the Midwest.
While Hall and MacKool have grown bigger than Bikes & Murder, they are still employing it as an apparel company and source of revenue, because, they say, some people love it.
Now that Detroit Bike City has a year to plan, they say they’re going to expand the show and add an area of custom bike builders, expand the Detroit swap-and-sell marketplace, and add a charity event the night before to raise money for local charities, among other things.
And in 2013, the bicycling convention will occupy the larger upstairs exhibition space. “[This year] we have 100,000 square feet and 30-foot ceilings,” MacKool says. “[BMX team Rise Above] will be able to bring thebike swing.”
Detroit Bike City says they’re working with many of the same sponsors as last year, including Tree Fort Bikes and Velocity Wheels, but are also dealing with bigger entities like the “HAPs and Blue Crosses” of the area. While they’re growing in both power and strength, MacKool ensures the convention is still about Detroit cycle makers and organizations. He says they’re not going to leave anybody behind.
“A lot of this stuff we’ve done is to make the cost easier on [the vendors],” says Hall. “Last year we needed that money for the event, but if we get enough sponsorship we’ll pass that on to them. The goal is to help everyone flourish. Our idea is to bring everyone together and fulfill everyone’s needs.”
Small Beginnings and Organic Growth
Hall and MacKool founded the Bikes & Murder bike group in 2011 and started a few rides, including Slow Rolls to Slow Jams, which initially saw attendance of 10-15 people, as well as a handful of other bicycle-inspired events.
According to Hall, Slow Rolls to Slow Jams is a casual, “nice-paced” ride through the city, which showcases a lot of Detroit areas people may not have seen otherwise. MacKool says it’s a way to see the city on a bicycle, “which is the best way to see anything.” He says it’s a great way to connect to the city and it’s an "awesome, friendly group activity."
“I can hear the connections being made,” MacKool says. “I can ride through the crowd and hear everybody introducing themselves to each other.”
Hall says the ride’s participation went from 20 to over 100 riders in a matter of weeks.
“Our peak was 130. All of a sudden we have T-shirts showing we’re sweeping this ride and we have to talk about the rules. Everything has become more official,” he says.
Their Bike-In Theater events went from 20 to 80 people in a relatively short time span as well.
Quick growth or not, the two social entrepreneurs are modest fellows and attribute their organic and healthy growth to the eager community of cyclists, both inside and outside of Detroit, for their success.
While Hall and MacKool have grown bigger than Bikes & Murder, they are still employing it as an apparel company and source of revenue, because, they say, some people just love it.
Quick growth or not, the two social entrepreneurs are modest fellows and attribute their organic and healthy growth to the eager community of cyclists, both inside and outside of Detroit.
Recently awarded a fellowship in the Detroit Creative Corridor Center's Creative Ventures Program, these guys are becoming strong leaders in the cycling community. They’re looking forward to Detroit Bike City, a bike shop, and more exciting plans they have yet to announce.
“Everything is about the city. We’re trying to put people in neighborhoods or get people out to festivals or raise awareness,” Hall says. “But without all of us pitching in, this wouldn’t be happening. We went from a bike club with T-shirts to an organization that doesn’t really have any boundaries — so we started just rolling with it.”