Why you should know about Pioneer Square’s Back Alley Bike Repair

by Eric Shalit on March 21, 2012

Back Alley Bike Repair owner Ben Rainbow celebrated his birthday tonight.

I visited Back Alley Bike Repair this evening to wish owner Ben Rainbow a happy birthday and to check out the new shop. Back Alley Bike Repair offers expert same day bike repair and supplies in the heart of Pioneer Square. It’s located in the same building as the Bicycle Alliance, in historic Pioneer Square just off Jackson St. and 1st Ave. in the alley adjacent to Temple Billiards. The shop is not just about nuts, bolts, tubes, and chains. This is a shop with soul. Ben and the staff are all about building community and promoting bike use. I hope you’ll drop in there to check it out. It’s well on it’s way to becoming a genuine hub for the bicycle community.

Here’s what owner Back Alley owner Ben Rainbow wrote in the Bicycle Alliance Blog.

When the decision was made to close Bike Port at the end of 2011, discussion ensued about the future of JRA Bike Shop’s Pioneer Square location.  Todd Vogel, local sustainable business visionary and Pioneer Square mover and shaker, was interested in having the bike shop relocate to the alley area of his historic Nord Building.  The space had been used as a non-profit conference area as well as a staging area for First Thursday Art Walk parties and receptions, and Nord Alley has hosted World Cup viewing parties, as well as a rotating array of art installations.

Hmm, let’s see… funky cool space in the heart of Pioneer Square, alley access, socially progressive landlord? Sounds pretty good. Then I come to find out that the remaining entirety of the ground floor of the Nord Building will be the new headquarters of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and current tenants in the modern downstairs office space include Feet First, OneEnergy Renewables, and the International Sustainability Institute.

As the manager of JRA’s Pioneer Square shop, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to re-invest in Pioneer Square and have an urban commuter repair cycling emporium right off Occidental Park and the corner of First and Main. But for JRA owner Eric Berg, the massive amount of energy to move two bike shops in the same year (he had already relocated his Greenwood shop) meant change was in the air. It was with Eric’s sincerest blessings that I would buy out an inventory of tools and shop fixtures and re-open in the new alley location as Back Alley Bike Repair. Like all worthy business ventures, we sealed the deal over some delicious local pints.

I accept that creating an appealing alley destination for women (and men) is but an initial challenge that I will use to measure our success. It also might seem unlikely that people would even think to go into an alley at all. With the nature of JRA’s customers being car-free cycling commuters and the unique vision of Todd Vogel’s International Sustainability Institute to ‘activate’ the alley, I will bring my 15+ years working with bikes, urban planners, non-profits, and artists to establish what I hope will be a true gem in the Pioneer Square neighborhood.

Action in the alley.

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