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New Year, New Owner!

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  • By Andrew McClenaghan
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New Year, New Owner!

As of January 1st, I became the majority owner of the Bicycle Café. In partnership with General Manager, Andrew Hunniford, we will shape the path for LBC in 2024. 

As of January 1st, I became the majority owner of the Bicycle Café. In partnership with General Manager, Andrew Hunniford, we will shape the path for LBC in 2024. 

My journey to ownership started in 2020 when I first became a client of the Café, purchasing my first pedal assist Gazelle bicycle. I had followed Ben on social media for awhile and decided that this was the community I wanted to help me learn to make cycling my primary mode of transportation, not just recreation. One bicycle, turned into many bicycles - a common story.

The Café was not just a retail outlet, but also a community hub, a “Third Place” not work or home, an advocate for safe streets and a champion for climate change action. 

Andrew and his family enjoying a meal at the Café.

Andrew and his family enjoying a meal at the Café.

Thinking Bigger

Having recently sold my web development agency, Digital Echidna, I had approached Ben with an offer of investment to ensure he could continue to keep the store full of bikes as the impact of supply chain challenges through 2021 and 2022 complicated delivery. 

Sitting in Ivey Park, at the Forks of the Thames having a coffee, Ben told me about his vision for a new space in the Riverwalk tower nearing completion across the street. It was a bold plan for expansion. A marquee location at the heart of our City and uniquely situated at the heart of our cycling infrastructure - roughly 50km of riverside trail, the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP). It would be the meeting space for cycling in our City. A launching off point, a place to rest along the way, a place to relax at the end of your journey.

My investment along with that of General Manager Andrew Hunniford would help bring this project to life and we both joined on as minority partners to help see this vision through. We would also operate as the boots on the ground as Ben would be relocating to the West coast with his family to support his partner’s career growth. 

Growing Pains

The typical challenges of being a first tenant in any new space delayed the opening of the Café until early 2023 which left us trying to establish ourselves in the midst of the Winter season. We met the challenges head on with the help of our loyal supporters. We were also fortunate to have Alicia join us as our new baker (and now Café Manager) to begin experimenting on the development of our Dutch inspired menu including baked goods and Grandma’s favourite recipes.

The patio was bumping through the Spring and Summer season - filled with our loyal supporters, new neighbours and friends rolling down the TVP. The highlight of the season was our grand opening party in June which saw over 1000 attendees including dignitaries from City Council. The party featured live music, free food, and many giveaways including an e-bike!

Despite the logistics of operating out of two locations, our Service center under Alex’s leadership grew this season. That said, in order to provide a seamless experience, a decision was made this fall to relocate Service next door to 24 York St for the 2024 season and further establishing the block as the Bicycle Café district.

On the new bike side of the business we continued to build our relationship with Gazelle and Tern to continue to bring top-of-the-line pedal assist transportation to our community. VSF and Breezer bikes were also popular this year along with the Brompton folding bike line. Despite some macro economic trends, such as interest rates and inflation, thanks to the amazing work of Nadia and Andrew we had over 175 new bike days.

London Bicycle Café co-owner Andrew Hunniford pilots a cargo bike while holding "the sword of traffic calming" as his business partner Andrew McClenaghan cuts the ribbon on their new location on Thames Street. Molly Miksa, executive director of London Cycle Link, cheers them on.

London Bicycle Café co-owner Andrew Hunniford pilots a cargo bike while holding "the sword of traffic calming" as his business partner Andrew McClenaghan cuts the ribbon on their new location on Thames Street. Molly Miksa, executive director of London Cycle Link, cheers them on. Photo taken on Wednesday May 31, 2023. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

Passing the Torch

London Bicycle Café founder, Ben Cowie, believes that local ownership is essential for the success of small business. When his family decided to make their move to Victoria permanent, it was clear that a change in ownership of the business was needed to continue its mission. 

In Ben’s words: “The people who live and work (and ride) in a place are the ones most invested in a community’s success. Andrew’s passion for bikes, and “grow where you’re planted” philosophy felt like a perfect fit to continue to cultivate the London Bicycle Café community.”

Ben is grateful for the community support that grew the business in its earliest years, and to everyone who committed their time and energy to making everyday cycling a priority in London and Southwestern Ontario. He anticipates great things to come for bikes in the Forest City with London Bicycle Café serving as a hub of activity for decades to come

Café Founder Ben Cowie will continue to support the organization as advisor, Founder Emeritus and chief rabble-rouser. 

Café Founder Ben Cowie will continue to support the organization as advisor, Founder Emeritus and chief rabble-rouser. 

Onward to 2024 - a Few New Year’s Resolutions

With a new year comes all sorts of new ideas to make the Bicycle Café even better for our loyal supporters. Here is a sneak preview of some of our resolutions for the coming year:

Sunday Brunch - Chef Alicia is working hard to create a weekly marquee brunch service to tantalize your taste buds.

Valentine’s Surprise Boxes - Following on the heels of December’s custom chocolate letters, look forward to romantically inspired treats from the Café.

Service Deck - As part of our newly relocated service center, Alex is excited to build out a new deck located at the rear of the building. The deck will serve as a meeting point for triaging bike service issues and leading service trainings. 

Licensed Venue - I’ve been working hard on paperwork while the staff has been sampling the finest craft beers and wines of the region in preparation for our impending license - any day now!

Rental Fleet - Family in town? Visiting for the weekend? Get excited to rent bikes this summer and cruise the 50+ kilometers of riverside trails.  

See you Soon!

Thank you all for your continued support of the Café and our mission to change how Londoners move about our City. Together we are making a difference and looking forward to another exciting year in 2024.

Comments

  1. Kathy Kathy

    Congrats to everyone involved! LBC is a true leader in the community - the entire staff are amazing and the new location(s) are going to ensure that you continue to inspire and support the cycling community. Bravo!

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