It’s something cyclists elsewhere in the Twin Cities take for granted: having a shop a short ride or walk from your home where you can quickly get a flat fixed or ask a mechanic to check out that weird sound your chain has been making.
But Venture North, the bike shop and cafe at 1830 Glenwood Ave., is the only bike shop serving north Minneapolis. And after falling on some tough financial times in 2021, the Harrison neighborhood nonprofit shop—which was founded by Redeemer Center for Life in 2011—closed its doors.
The church had run into some rough times of its own (you may have heard of this whole pandemic?) and it wasn’t clear if or how the bike shop would reopen. That’s when Kennis Littleton’s name came up at a board meeting.
“I was born in North Memorial Hospital, raised on the 2900 block of Emerson Avenue North until I was eight years old,” Littleton tells Racket. “I grew up on bicycles over here—I rode bicycles my entire childhood.”
Littleton is also a recent graduate of Minnesota adult and teen challenge and a person of color who understands the importance of having a community-run, BIPOC-led bike shop in north Minneapolis. He quickly realized that Venture North is “a gem on the Northside.” And if he didn’t step up soon, there was a very real chance the shop would go away.
The shop is asking for a little financial boost via GoFundMe to get going again; at this writing they’ve raised $9,500 of their $60,000 goal. But no matter how many donations come in, Littleton says Venture North will reopen for bike service and sales this Friday, April 1, at 10 a.m. (The cafe component will be a little bit behind that, what with city inspections and such, but they’ll be giving away free drip coffee until then.)
Funds raised will help pay for operational expenses, including payroll, equipment updates, and startup costs to help get the business back on its feet. This is also a great chance to dig out that old Schwinn from storage: “We’re in dire need of bicycle donations,” Littleton says.
Over the coming months, Littleton and co. plan to reintroduce the youth programming Venture North was known for, including open shop hours and the bicycle mechanic internship program, which brings 12 to 18 year olds into the shop to work with mentors and learn how to wrench on bikes.
“It’s about the kids, right? It’s about the youth,” Littleton says. “The youth are the future.” It’s important to him that Venture North is a safe place for kids to hang out, learn useful skills, and build a sense of community and self confidence.
Just as important? Having a BIPOC-owned bike shop representing north’s BIPOC community.
“It’s really important that this community is represented in the bicycle industry in Minnesota,” he says. “Minnesota is a biking state, and I’m so happy to be a part of that.”