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Turin Bicycle Plants Its Stake on Damen Avenue, Not a Trek in Sight

By Patty Wetli | April 15, 2013 11:01am

LINCOLN SQUARE — It's no coincidence that Lincoln Square's latest bike shop planted its stake on the neighborhood's friendliest bike lane.

"The location was thought out," general manager Nate Kersten said of Turin Bicycle's Damen Avenue storefront.

On Sunday, Kersten could be found manning a water station in front of the shop at 4710 N. Damen Ave., handing out refreshments to passing cyclists, declaring Turin officially open for business during the shop's grand opening celebration.

Turin has a somewhat convoluted history in Chicago. The shop originally opened in 1965, moved to Evanston, added a Denver outpost, survived a break-up between owners Chris Mailing and Lee Katz and now returns to the city under the ownership of Katz and business partner Alan Fine.

Acknowledging that bike shops "can feel intimidating and exclusive," Kersten promised an inclusive atmosphere.

"A lot of bike shops fall into a habit. We're thinking from 'If I were a customer, what would be my ideal experience?'" he said.

Eschewing deals with large manufacturers like Trek, Specialized and Cannondale, Turin is aiming to fill a more boutique niche, taking care not to step on the toes of neighboring shops On the Route and Easy Rider.

"For us, this was an opportunity to do something different," said sales manager Christopher Olorosa.

For starters, Turin will be bringing in its own brand of bikes as well as stocking Focus from Germany, Opus from Montreal and Shinola from Detroit. Artisan bikes on display include a model made from walnut wood and another from bamboo and titanium. Prices range from just under $600 up to $10,000.

"There's definitely a bike for everyone," said service manager Jon Londres, a veteran Turin mechanic. "We have nice stuff, but then again, we want to get people closer to bikes."

Racers comprise a sizeable segment of Turin's customer base and the shop will eventually sponsor a racing team.

"We've talked about a lot of things, but 'doors open' was  No. 1," said Kersten.

Recreation and commuter cyclists — a booming demographic — are also well represented at Turin, evident in the shop's selection of commuter apparel, a bike shop rarity.

"Bike culture is really building up. It's past the fanatic stage, past the trendy phase. It's now part of your life," said Londres. Turin's aim, he said, is to serve all riders "however it works into your lifestyle."

Fitting in is key to Turin's strategy at its new digs, where the shop has been enthusiastically received by residents.

"People come in just to say 'hi,'" said Londres.

Turin aims to return the favor, playing good neighbor by sending customers waiting on repairs next door to A Perfect Cup cafe or Amy's Candy Bar.

Said Oloroso, "We're making ourselves a nice home here."