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Hell Yeah: The Greenway Finally Has a Bike + Coffee Shop Again

Venture Bikes Midtown is ready to make you a latte or wrench on your road bike.

10:20 AM CDT on September 14, 2023

Venture Bikes|

We’re so back.

There hasn't been a bike shop along the Midtown Greenway since Freewheel Bike Shop—open at its ride-up, trail-adjacent location since 2008—departed following the Minneapolis uprising sparked by the 2020 murder of George Floyd. For months now, a sign outside the Allina Health-owned building at 2834 10th Ave. S. has sported a not-so-encouraging message to cyclists riding by: "Allina Employee Entrance Only."

Though there have been some signs of life, including a façade mural painted last year by the Minneapolis artist collective City Mischief, it seemed like we wouldn't get a new bike shop along the Greenway any time soon. And then, earlier this month, the space suddenly sprang to life once again. The former Freewheel location is now up and running as a community-oriented bike-slash-coffee shop called Venture Bikes.

The shop is owned by Kennis Littleton, formerly of Venture North Bikes in north Minneapolis. He's partnered with Anthony Taylor, founder of Slow Roll MSP, whose rides prioritize Black cyclists of all experience levels.

"This year, when it was apparent that Venture North had to move, I created a Facebook live that caught the attention of Allina Healthcare, and because of that we are now able to operate on the Greenway," Littleton tells Racket.

"As far as I know, this is the only African-American-owned bike shop in Minnesota," GM Chris Huff-Hanson says.

That title previously would have gone to Venture North, but after briefly reopening under Littleton's guidance early last year, the shop has closed for good; their building at 1830 Glenwood Ave. was since sold to a developer, Huff-Hanson says.

"That location has had a rich history with Venture North," Littleton said in a July Facebook video introducing the new Greenway shop. "But... even though that has come to an end at that location, Venture North has definitely not gone away."

"North Minneapolis needs more. In so many ways," Huff-Hanson says. "But that neighborhood was just being bought up by developers, and honestly, the deal that Allina offered was just too good to pass up. We can do so much more, creating a cycling community and bringing in new cyclists [in the Midtown shop]."

Getting folks familiarized with bikes will be a big part of the goal at the new Greenway location, which is currently operating as a coffee shop with mechanic services while Taylor, Littleton, and Huff-Hanson build up the retail offerings. "That's really one of the primary goals: getting people out to ride bikes and discover that kind of joy and freedom, and the healthy boost to their lives," says Huff-Hanson, who was the bike buyer at Hub Bike Co-Op for a decade and also spent several years working for Freewheel.

That means the emphasis won't be bikes in the $2,000+ range; Huff-Hanson says they're seeking "best quality, low-price bikes" they can find. Littleton's directive has been that they've gotta look good, "budget but really cool."

That'll set Venture Bikes apart from many of the other bike shops in the area, which—while great in their own ways!—are often focused on a more affluent consumer. In the interest of the bottom line, Venture will offer some pricier options, too, along with a few brands of e-bikes.

The coffee shop is currently open all week long, offering caffeinated bevs, snacks including cookies and coffee cake, and house-made sodas (find the full menu here). Venture's coffee comes from Tiny Footprint Coffee, the carbon-negative roastery based in Brooklyn Center. Bike shop service hours are a little less formal at this point, though Huff-Hanson says that right now, their mechanic is typically on-site between 8 a.m. and -2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Huff-Hanson doesn't sugarcoat it: "Putting together a startup in a depressed bike economy, in an area and a space that was destroyed during the uprising, has been pretty challenging." He adds that he's not talking about the community—folks have reportedly been excited to see coffee and bikes back in the Greenway space.

But trying to find insurance? Or a food vendor who wants to move in? "It's been hard, like pulling teeth," Huff-Hanson says. After his calls and emails to insurance providers went unanswered, he says he actually had to go and sit in their lobbies until someone would see him. Not great!

But things haven't been all been bad, either.

"On the upside, we've been doing the Slow Rolls, and coming out here and having a big party and meal afterwards on the Greenway at night," Huff-Hanson says with a smile. "And reclaiming the space—it just feels so amazing."

Venture Bikes
2834 10th Ave. S., Minneapolis
6:30 a.m.-close Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-close Saturday; noon-close Sunday.

Update, 9/14 at 3:04 p.m.: An earlier version of this story stated that Taylor partnered with Littleton to open Venture Bikes; Littleton is in fact the majority owner of the shop.

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