Capitol Hill, noted for its pedestrian and biking oriented culture, still has a few places left to buy shoes but is about to lose a place to buy a bicycle. 11th and Pine’s Velo Bike Shop, a part of Seattle cycling culture since 1968, is moving on to a new store space and bicycling services venture in the street level of an enormous set of new apartment towers in Belltown.
“We had this great opportunity,” a member of the Tamura family that started Velo near the Arboretum in the ’60s tells CHS. “Amazon is going to be across the street. It’s going to be very vibrant.”
Generations of the family have worked at the business Glenn Tamura founded as a bike rental venture along Lake Washington Blvd just before the big bike boom of the 1970s. That’s when he opened the Capitol Hill shop. Others followed. In the 1990s, however, much of the Tamura biking business fell to pieces. The family was able to keep the 11th and Pine shop and it became their sole outlet. This 2000 Seattle Times profile provides a history of the Velo stores. It makes no mention, however, of Glenn’s role in establishing Bicycle Sundays, helping to introduce bicycles to the Seattle Police Department or his Sekai bicycle brand that is now a sought-after collectible. The family says there are plenty of other tales of the Tamuras helping to keep Seattle rolling.
The Tamuras opened the 11th and Pine store in 1985. Today, their upstairs neighbors are the Pulitzer-worthy alternative weekly The Stranger. There is no word, yet, on what is next for the early 1900s Velo building after the 8,000 square-foot bike shop is gone. The property and the adjacent home of Value Village is owned by the same set of investors. Across the street, meanwhile, preparations are underway to begin construction of a new six-story apartment development atop the old Sunset Electric building following its $6.7 million purchase earlier this year by the Arizona-based developers Wolff Co.
Velo’s new store at 6th and Blanchard will be about half the size of the current location but presents the opportunity for the Tamura family to expand into a new bike-related venture. The Via6 apartment towers are described as a “vertical neighborhood” — the idea for the new Velo will be to provide that neighborhood with the bikes it needs and services like bike parking, lockers, showers and, yes, even a bike wash:
Velo Bike Shop has signed a lease at the Via6 apartments and will relocate from Capitol Hill to Belltown. Velo will occupy 3,700 square feet at Sixth and Blanchard in the half-block project that is on the west side of Sixth Avenue between Lenora and Blanchard streets. It will be located across the street from the future Amazon campus.
In addition to the bicycle store, Velo will operate the bicycle club under development in Via6. The club will cater to downtown Seattle bicycle commuters who desire a place to park their bikes during the day and a place to shower. Club members will have access to men’s and women’s locker rooms with showers, restrooms and lockers; a security card access system; towel service; secure parking for up to 250 bikes; and, a bike wash.
The store is scheduled to open Spring of 2013.
As the clock ticks toward next spring, a Velo representative said you can probably expect the Capitol Hill location to remain open up until the big move.