Shifting the Culture
new shop combines love of cycles, coffee, community
Soon a quiet block in downtown Eau Claire will be enlivened by people on bicycles who are passionate about riding and coffee. By early October, SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar will open in downtown Eau Claire. SHIFT aims to be a destination for casual and serious cyclists, commuters, and the many people of Eau Claire who are in daily need of a serious pour-over coffee experience. And it will all happen to the soundtrack of excellent vinyl.
“What we’re trying to do is educate people about owning bikes and cycling in the area, whether those are short or long rides, for commuting or leisure.” – Laura Lash, co-owner, SHIFT Cycley & Coffee Bar
Aaron Salmon, chairman of the City of Eau Claire’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, was raised in rural Eau Claire. During his 14 years in Chicago, he racked up miles of city and trail biking and spent late nights at his friend’s bike shops. When he moved back three years ago, he wanted to contribute to the Eau Claire community. He had a vision of a destination for cyclists to gather, get fueled on fresh snacks and strong coffee, and collaborate on civic-minded endeavors. He shared this idea nugget with his friend Aaron Harder, who owns Entropy Multimedia on Barstow Street. Together they sought out a building with character in need of updating and found that location at 615 Graham Ave. Harder purchased the building in February 2016 to house SHIFT, and Salmon set out to make other connections to round out his bike/coffee hub idea.
Enter Sean Brandenburg and Dan Green, whom Salmon got to know while working the bike valet at the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series. Sean is sole proprietor of Eau Claire Mobile Bike Repair and has folded those services into SHIFT. Dan is the creative mind behind BikeThink, under which he has created pedi-cabs, bike chariots, and other artistic bike projects. The team is rounded out by Salmon’s spouse, Laura Lash, who will organize events and meetings. She’s also in charge of keeping the chill with her skills as yoga and meditation teacher.
The bike and coffee shop combination is a new concept for Eau Claire but not unique. “We saw examples like this when we lived in Chicago,” Laura said. “Aaron really loved the community of the Chicago bike shops.”
One of SHIFT’s signature intentions will be outreach, Laura said: “What we’re trying to do is educate people about owning bikes and cycling in the area, whether those are short or long rides, for commuting or leisure.” To this end, SHIFT will offer clinics and workshops like the recent “Bicycle Basics by SHIFT: Drivetrain Cleaning and Maintenance,” offered at their annex space in Artisan Forge Studios. Currently Sean and Dan are offering repairs out of Artisan, as well as doing mobile tune-ups and repairs at clients’ homes and workplaces. Once the brick and mortar location is ready downtown, Graham Avenue will be the primary location for SHIFT activities.
The interior of SHIFT will feature a cafe that seats about 40 people. Next to that will be the bike repair and sales shop that features a bar for patrons to sit and talk shop while enjoying their coffee or learning about their bike as it’s being worked on. In the rear will be a versatile retail space showcasing quality bikes and gear with a focus on local and regionally made products. The convertible space is designed to transform for meetings and events or for training on stationary bikes in the winter months. SHIFT will also have trainers available. (Trainers allow cyclists to clip their own bike into a stand and pedal in place.)
Coffee at SHIFT will be carefully brewed from the excellent and responsibly sourced coffees of Ruby, Intelligentsia, and Soul Brewed Coffee Roasters. They’ll serve espresso, pour-over, and third-wave brew methods to create a unique coffee experience. For cold refreshments, you’ll also be able to order cold brew, nitro coffee, and kombucha on draft. For home-brewing coffee-lovers, SHIFT will offer equipment and a personalized subscription service for coffee beans they’ll be rotating in from various roasters throughout the year.
In the long term, the SHIFT team will work to put Eau Claire on the map through statewide outreach. They want to become a stop for long-distance riders and a home for more cycling events. Sean has long been involved with cycling on a regional level through racing and race announcing, and as the host of the Midwest Cycling Podcast.
Ultimately, Laura intends for SHIFT to be a comfortable, inviting place for people passionate about craft coffee and/or bicycles, from family bikers to athletes, who want to learn more about their community and their passions and to connect with their neighbors. The intention is to provide a space for the cycling and coffee community to congregate. “This will be a place for people who want to improve the community to gather and have positive conversations,” Laura said.