JEFFERSON PARK — The hearts of many Chicago bicycle commuters broke in December when the owners of Rapid Transit Cycleshop closed the store's two locations, leaving them without a go-to place for gear, repairs and advice.
But owners Justyna Frank and Chris Stodder sent the hearts of bicycle aficionados soaring Thursday with the news that they will open Cosmic Bikes at 4641 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Jefferson Park before the end of April.
Frank said the new store will be more than double the size of their old shop in Wicker Park, allowing them to display all the cargo and recumbent bikes their pedal-loving hearts desire.
The storefront is across the street from Wilson Park and underneath Chris' Billiards, where "The Color of Money" was shot in 1986. It has been vacant for at least four years, although it has been used as a pop-up Halloween shop during September and October.
"We have some good-size pieces to sell," Frank said Thursday. "Being able to display them all will be an unheard of luxury."
In Wicker Park, Frank and Stodder found themselves pinched by the slow recovery from the Great Recession, escalating rents and growing competition, Frank said. The couple declared bankruptcy, records show.
Frank and Stodder's new business is smack in the middle of the Jefferson Park Business District, where a furor erupted in in 2014 over a plan backed by Ald. John Arena (45th) to remove a lane of traffic in each direction on Milwaukee Avenue in order to improve safety — and install protected or buffered bicycle lanes.
Amid criticism that narrowing Milwaukee Avenue would snarl traffic and hurt neighborhood businesses in an area that has struggled for years to fill empty storefronts, Arena dropped the plan.
Frank said she wasn't worried about setting up shop in an area that has a reputation for being less-than-friendly to those who choose travel on two wheels rather than four.
The situation was much the same when Frank and Stoddard opened the first Rapid Transit Cycleshop in Wicker Park in 1994. A second location near the University of Illinois-Chicago opened in 2009, Frank said.
"We're accustomed to people being resistant to commuting by bike," Frank said. "I think that will gradually change with time."
Frank said she and Stoddard were excited to introduce another area of the city to folding bicycles and other essentials for those who commute on two wheels. In addition, the store will feature a repair shop that will offer pick up and delivery, Frank said.
But the store will also cater to recreational bicyclists and offer family bikes, Frank said.
"It is all very exciting to be back in business," Frank said.
The news of Cosmic Bikes opening was first reported by Streetsblog Chicago.
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