Friday, December 10, 2010

Hard Questions Being Asked About Bike Walk Center In North Minneapolis...

Photo by John Hoff of City Council Meeting online video, blog post by John Hoff


On December 1, the Public Safety And Health Committee of the Minneapolis City Council met, and one of the items before them concerned a proposed Bike Walk Center at 2145 Lowry Ave. We have the video of that portion of the meeting on a previous post, click here.

A group called Cultural Wellness Center answered a city RFP (Request for Proposal) and put forward a plan which involved a combined bike and coffee shop. The prime mover behind this proposal is a guy named Anthony Taylor who is a leader with Major Taylor Bicyling Club, which is affiliated with Cultural Wellness Center, a South Minneapolis entity headquartered on Lake Street, click here for their website. An online interview with Taylor, dated July of 2010, contains mention that Taylor lives at Grand and Victoria. (That's St. Paul, right?)

The tough questioning by the City Council members touched on some of the following areas:

Is it fair to use public money to support a coffee shop when other private coffee shops are struggling to make a profit in North Minneapolis, a neighborhood where (as Barb Johnson mentioned) doesn't have a Starbucks, Caribou Coffee or Dunn Brothers?
Is the business proposal viable? Do the people running this business have business acumen, or just hopes and dreams?

Why is there a hurry to rent this space at 2145 Lowry Ave.? Is there really another interested party wanting the space or is that just well known rental industry trick to...

...create urgency where none is necessary? (This point was made by Council Member Meg Tuthill)

Here at Johnny Northside Dot Com, we have some of our own tough questions, which is not to say these questions weren't asked in some form by the council members--but, then again, it's not to say the questions WERE asked. Here's what I'm wondering:

Why didn't Cultural Wellness Center attend any meeting of the Jordan Area Community Council (JACC) to air their proposal and ask for support? I am told JACC was not formally approached though, suddenly, Cultural Wellness Center is on the JACC agenda for next week. So why wasn't this entity going around to the various neighborhoods of North Minneapolis BEFORE this proposal got as far as the Safety and Health Committee? Clearly, buy-in from the neighborhoods is vital to the success of any proposed project.

Also, why should a bike center in North Minneapolis be spearheaded by a non-profit? Why shouldn't such a bike center be a for-profit entity? What is the financial track record of Cultural Wellness Center?

Who was on the eight-member committee which approved and forwarded this proposal to the city's Public Safety and Health Committee?

And, finally, I have this question: Council Member Barb Johnson asked the staff for certain documents to review. Are these documents public and available?


22 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no excuse for the city to provide funds to this bike shop / coffee shop when other same type businesses exist and do not receive funding. Those property owners who are seeing their taxes raised 17% should be steaming at the prospect of their tax dollars going to a business that the city might prefer over other businesses. As to why this business didn't go before the JACC, well they don't have to and it's arrogant to assume that a project will automatically fail just because it didn't bow before the neighborhood organization. If anything it would be a kind gesture but completely unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

Why is this needed? If people want to bike or walk it's a free country. Why do we need a "bike walk center" if people are going to walk or bike they will. What a utopian waste.

Johnny Northside! said...

But what if somebody is actually, um, CLAIMING to have gone around and gotten neighborhood support? Hmmmmmmm?

Johnny Northside! said...

Check this out. Here's where the claim is made to be engaging folks like the Jordan Area Community Council, specifically:
----------------------------
Joan: Tell us about another big project. What is the vision for the Bike Walk Center in North Minneapolis?

Anthony: If you look at the portion of Minneapolis between 94 on the east, 694 on the north, 494 on the west, and 394 on the south -in that entire big box of city, there is not a single full service bike shop. The vision for the bike walk center is to create a facility that will be a full service center to meet the needs of the community and the people in that corridor that want to bike and walk. North Minneapolis is very diverse economically, culturally and ethnically which makes it a gateway community. It is also a natural link into downtown for everything west of downtown.

(Paragraph break not in original text)

The vision is to create a center that provides resources for people biking and walking, that has affordable retail, and gives the community the opportunity to get a quality bike at the right price where they can also receive full service. Nothing against Target, but if you buy a bike there, where do you take it to be serviced? The bike walk center is designed to be that community-owned place. To make sure this is a community initiated, owned and supported organization, we're involving many community partners such as the Bike Walk Ambassadors, the City of Minneapolis, and the Jordan Community Board. It will be self-sustaining.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 4:21,

the money that will be used for this bike walk center is actually a federal grant from the Obama stimulus package, it's not city property tax money.

But it is still taxpayer's money and due diligence is in order from the city staff and councilmembers to make sure they are putting the $350,000 grant money towards a business that will be viable when the grant money runs out.

I think that is where the questions should be directed, can this operator be viable when the grant money runs out.

James said...

The only way an operation like this is "self sustaining" is if they sell weed out the back door. If they do open for business and don't get government money to stay in business I give them 9 months before they are broke. Bike's aren't like old Harley Davidson's. If you buy a bike from Target it doesn't need oil changes etc you can ride it and ride it and then if it dies spend another $99 and get another.

Anonymous said...

Bingo!

If this was a viable business proposition then an existing Bike Shop would have expanded to this location.

If the City is interested in making a Bike/Walk/Coffee Shop a viable option for NoMi perhaps they should examine some of the social policies that make the community so unattractive to profitable business concerns.

- Start limiting rental licenses that attract poverty pimps and reinforce homesteader incentives.

- Start enforcing Nuisance Property Laws.

- Re-examine the concentrated placement of sexual offenders in the community.

- Establish Community Design Standards that prevent shoddy rehabs.

- Etc....

veg*nation said...

first of all, i love the idea of having a bike shop in the neighborhood.

if the shop is going to be truly "community owned," why not set it up as a worker-owned co-op, like The Hub. that's one way to actually build a core biking community, attract a loyal community of customers (i.e., the worker-owners' biking friends), on the northside, not just depend on ONLY on casual customers.

i also vote for the retro building on 26th & Penn. no matter where the funds come from, something quirky, unique, with character is going to have a better shot at becoming the kind of long-lasting community hub that a bike shop should be.

engaging the community isn't about being "kind," it's about getting the kind of feedback (i.e., market research) and buy-in (i.e., building a consumer base) necessary to be successful. it's just good planning.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

I've been pondering various aspects of the bike shop issue for a while now. I'd like to post my thoughts here, but I'm still perplexed as to what exactly is happening with the JNS comment policy.

Someone made some rather substantive comments on the 1551 Hillside post, and they were removed. I don't know who, but the "why" was stated by NoMi Passenger that this person was supposedly not allowed to comment on this blog anymore.

While we shouldn't allow known trolls to come in and divert the discussion or make baseless allegations as they've been known to do, I'm still unclear as to what prompted this decision. After all, the person no longer allowed to comment wasn't identified as a troll at all. And this blog has always been open to varying points of view. Hell, it's been open to publishing counterpoints from Paul Koenig himself and even statements from a person believed to be involved somehow in the murder of Annshalike Hamilton.

What did this other person who is no longer allowed to comment do that was so egregious, so damaging to NoMi, that he or she won't have their comments accepted? If such an action was truly warranted, I would think we'd have heard about it on here or elsewhere well before this banishment.

Until those comments are restored, or until there is a satisfactory explanation offered, I'm afraid I won't be able to comment on JNS - other than to push for a resolution to this matter. It's just that I wouldn't want to inadvertently say or do something that gets ME banned too.

Anonymous said...

HH I think you may be referring to the comments from "Patrick" which were not approved. Word on the street has it that Nomi Passenger told JNS to no longer approve any comments from Patrick regardless of the nature of the comment. Hence the new policy.

NoMi Passenger said...

Commenting on behalf of John, who is busy with real life:

Anonymous is correct that Patrick and other trolly comments aren't being published anymore, but really what Hawthorne Hawkman is asking about is in regards to a person who specifically made a personal request to John to not have any publication of their name, pictures or anything to do with that person whatsoever.

So the comment policy at JNS hasn't changed. And that is the end if this public discussion. Any further questions should be taken up with John privately.

Back to regularly scheduled programming...

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Oh really? Because there seems to be a difference between "not allowed to comment" and "requested that their comments be removed."

And seeing as how comments mysteriously disappearing, perhaps without the consent of the person whose comments were deleted is happening in the public sphere, I think the discussion about that should take place publicly too.

Anonymous said...

Hawkman, what planet have you been on. The JNS policy on approving comments, and comments vanishing, is nothing new. Whenever the heat gets turned up under JNS the policy gets enforced. It is not a new event to have comments vanish overnight. There have been several articles where comments were deleted that were not flattering to JNS or NP. In one case there were 34 comments in the evening, and the following morning there were half that. The excuse from JNS was a technical glitch.
It's also not uncommon for comments to be approved days after they were submitted, when the article is lower on the column.
Come on Jeff, how long have you known these people? Isn't it about time you wised up?

Johnny Northside said...

It's disingenuous, Jeff, for you to say or act as though you don't know more about the situation than you actually do and the personalities involved.

So, again, if you want to have a discussion back channel by email or in person by phone, that's fine. I was indeed away for the weekend and I'm just catching up now. The policy is and continues to be that just about any substantive comment is published, unless it's a troll comment.

Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion about the Bike Walk Center.

Johnny Northside said...

One troll comment rejected, but I will say this:

The correct plurals of "bro" and "ho" are as follows: bros hos.

There is no need for an apostrophe.

Anonymous said...

I called Barb Johnson's office this morning and she has now received the documents from the city staff and she said she is reviewing them.

Just thought I'd update that bit of info.

Johnny Northside said...

For the sake of the completeness of the discussion, here is that document which was published on "The Line."

-------------

Major Motion Bike Walk and Coffee could be first full-service bike shop in North Minneapolis

If city officials approve it, North Minneapolis could get its first full-service bike shop by the spring of next year.

In response to a request for proposals that the city sent out some months ago, the Cultural Wellness Center submitted a proposal for Major Motion Bike Walk and Coffee, which uniquely emphasizes walking for fun, exercise or transportation, according to Kristen Klingler, who works in the city's health and family department.

Her office recommended the proposal to a City Council committee, which will weigh in on it in January.

The South Minneapolis-based Cultural Wellness Center, a nonprofit organization that develops cultural approaches for health, economic development, and community building, plans to lease a 3,718-square-foot space at the corner of Lowry and Penn avenues north for the $450,000 project, Klingler says.

Major Motion Bike Walk and Coffee will offer new and used bikes, related gear and other accessories, plus bike repair and maintenance services and a coffee shop.

The shop will be stocked with items such as bus passes, compact shopping carts, reusable shopping bags and more, to help people make transitions from foot to bike to bus, according to Klingler.

Classes and workshops to "help people get comfortable riding the bike paths," for instance, along with spinning classes, will be held at the shop.

The goal is to "give access to things residents need to be active on a regular basis," says Klingler, adding, "Improving health is the main focus."

The Wellness Center has enlisted the help of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club, an Upper Midwest group which tries to increase bike riding among African Americans. Other partners are the North Side's EMERGE Community Development, which provides youth employment and job training, and nearby NEON, a collaborative network that specializes in small business development support.

Klingler says the city has a $350,000 grant from Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) that was funneled through the Minnesota Department of Health from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to help with the center's up-front costs.

The bike/walk center is part of a larger health initiative in the city and state that has programs geared around obesity prevention, physical activity, and healthy eating.

In North Minneapolis and beyond, strategies include expanding the Nice Ride bike-sharing program, new bike lanes and walking trails, and wayfinding signage for bike and pedestrian access--all of which will feed into the bike/walk center. "We're really excited about it," Klinger says.

Source: Kristen Klingler, City of Minneapolis
Writer: Anna Pratt

Bike Shop Dreamer Dude said...

Want to Start a Bike Shop?

The National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) regularly receives requests from people interested in starting their own retail bicycle businesses. Our message can be broken into two parts: Good News and Bad News. We'll start with the "bad."

THE BAD NEWS

We’d be remiss if we didn’t try to scare you off from the difficult task of starting a retail bicycle business. So here goes: Retailing is difficult, and it’s getting tougher. If we told you that you’d go broke within the first three years, we’d be right 70% of the time. The United States is in the midst of a revolution in retailing, with mass merchants, mail order, chains, and other forms of selling having momentum, and small independent stores under tremendous pressure. Today’s consumer wants high quality, great personal service, and a super-low price. There isn’t much room for error, and the small store’s costs are usually higher than the big guy's. The competitive battle is won through excellence, and excellence is not always easy to achieve.

The number of independent bicycle dealers is dropping, from a high of about 8,000 in the early 1980s to about 5,000 in early 2004. The bicycle retail industry typically loses about 1,000 bicycle dealers each year, mostly start-ups, but gains that many back because of even more start-ups. However, the overall number of storefronts has been declining in the last few years. Many people have lost their lives’ savings in the retail bicycle business because they loved bikes, but didn’t have a similar zest for the art of retailing. Bike shops run by people who are only bicycle hobbyists, and not business people, typically find the going tough in today’s competitive market. ....

Bike Shop Dreamer Dude said...

Add all that to the overall slim profitability in the bicycle industry, and you can really get depressed. NBDA studies show the typical bicycle dealer needs about a 36% profit margin to cover the costs of doing business and break even financially. Studies also show the average realized profit margin on bicycles to be around 36%, which is a break-even proposition devoid of profit. Fortunately accessories products generally carry a higher profit margin than bicycles. Still, the average bike dealer’s profit is less than 5% at year’s end -- about $25,000 for an average size store of $500,000 in annual sales.

If you’re still reading this, maybe you’re ready for...

THE GOOD NEWS

The level of innovation and diversity has never been higher in "dealer-quality" bicycle products. The number of entrepreneurial companies designing and manufacturing appealing products for the public is high, both in bicycles and accessories items. There isn’t any part on a bicycle which hasn’t been improved in the last five or so years. The bicycle is tied to health, vitality, fun and exercise. The bicycle is one of the least-expensive transportation choices available, as well as a wonderful tool for fitness and fun. The bicycle affects peoples’ lives in very positive ways, and its use contributes to the betterment of the environment.

Cycling participation is solid. There are approximately 45 million adult "cyclists" today, and cycling ranks fifth on the list of most popular outdoor recreational activities. The government has started to include bicycles in transportation planning. And for the retailer, the opportunity to successfully operate your own business in this very special field can be personally very satisfying.....

Bike Shop Dreamer Dude said...

SOME ADVICE

Look closely at yourself before taking on the difficult task of starting a bicycle business. Enthusiasm is important, but it’s not enough. Make sure you can muster excitement and creativity for merchandising, buying strategies, accounting, inventory control, advertising, employee relations, and sweeping the floors. You must want to serve people of all ages, types, colors and creeds. You’ll need some mechanical inclination and a strong constitution — not flinching from long hours, hard work and setbacks.

Use all the resources you can find to learn about small business basics. "Seat of the pants" business management principles can get you into a lot of trouble. Above all else, take the time to do your research and build a sound business plan (see article in the newsletter section of this web site). Planning, organizational skills, and high energy are prerequisites for success in the bicycle business.

The most successful dealers in the country stress personal service, and developing personal relationships with customers based on caring and service. Quality and personal attention are powerful ways to differentiate yourself from the various discounters and mail order outfits competing for the cycling dollar. The owner and key managers must truly want to help customers and the community, and be truly concerned about and involved with them.....

Bike Shop Dreamer Dude said...

This model of service affects almost every decision made by a retailer. Each time a customer steps into your store, he or she is judging the experience. You and your store are performing, and the showroom is your stage for showing product in interesting ways, where you interact with customers, and try to find out what they need and want that you can provide. The successful dealer pays very close attention to the quality of the customer’s "retail experience." Customers don’t like to be ignored, or taken for granted, or manipulated, or bored. Attention to detail, good selection, knowledge, a caring attitude, good product presentation — these are all keys to giving the customer that good experience. The store must be identified as "the brand" in the community -- not just the products they carry. Relying on the specific products you sell for your identity is extremely risky because others can also sell those specific products.

High quality retailing is not possible without being profitable, having the resources to meet customer expectations and wants. A common scenario of a struggling dealer is one who fails to maintain appropriate profit margins that allow financial viability, but instead uses unrealistic low prices across the board to attract customers. This can lead to what some refer to as the "death spiral." The retailer may appear busy and successful at first, but if revenue doesn't cover operating costs, failure is inevitable. The NBDA urges all dealers to keep records and know what their true cost of doing business is (rent, utilities, salaries, etc.) The numbers here are from the NBDA Cost of Doing Business Survey, reporting dealerships with expenses shown as a percentage of gross sales. It’s simple arithmetic — if your sales don’t cover your cost of goods plus your expenses, you’re losing money. Know what YOUR break-even point is. Be in control.

Bike Shop Dreamer Dude said...

There is more at the end of that article I posted such as plenty of other links as well as an estimated rough budget for retail bike shops if it interests you go to the link I posted at the beginning of the article.