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Community bike shop finds new home in D.C.

Published October 30, 2014

WASHINGTON (BRAIN) — When Katie Lupo went shopping for a bike after relocating to D.C. from Madison, Wisconsin, for an internship, she was shocked to discover there were no used bike shops in the city. After finishing graduate school, Lupo decided to move to D.C. permanently and open her own.

Lupo started Gearin’ Up Bicycles in late 2012 as a nonprofit community used bike shop, modeling it after a similar program in Madison called Dream Bikes.

“I saw Dream Bikes in action while in grad school studying economics and education,” said Lupo, executive director of Gearin’ Up Bicycles. “I like working with numbers and data sets and all, but I just wanted to do something that actually works — and this model does work. You can see the change immediately in the kids and the community.”

After receiving its 501 (3)(c) designation, a process that took an entire year, in April 2014, Lupo operated Gearin’ Up outdoors in a vacant lot for the summer. She used a shipping container for storage and had to pack and unpack her inventory of used bikes and new and used components morning and night, which took a lot of time and energy each day.

But halfway through the summer, Lupo received an email from a man who had just purchased a building adjacent to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, a popular D.C. bikeway. “There was no bike shop anywhere on the Met Branch Trail,” Lupo said. “The area is one of D.C.’s bike shop deserts, so it was very appealing. We just had to figure out if it was feasible for us.”

Lupo and the building’s owner eventually reached a compromise that worked for both parties, and Gearin’ Up completed the move this week. Lupo plans to open within the next week or two, once she receives the necessary permits from the city.

The new space is about 1,500 square feet, with a 600-square-foot retail area, a large room for bike storage and six workbenches outfitted with double-sided bike stands to accommodate 12 people. The store also has a large patio with tables and benches where Lupo plans to hold classes during the summer.

Lupo said that through her work with the Boys & Girls Clubs in 2013 she fostered relationships with many children and families in Gearin’ Up’s new neighborhood. In addition, a former program director for the Boys & Girls Clubs is now working as program director for Gearin’ Up, something that evolved after Lupo got him to ride a bike.

“We aren’t even open yet, but we’ve been so well received by the neighborhood so far,” Lupo said. “We had a fundraising gala last week, and neighbors came by with checks in hand to donate, excited to have a bike shop here.”

Gearin’ Up sells used bikes and new and used parts, accessories and components. It also administers earn-a-bike programs, through which more than 40 kids have already received bicycles. Lupo, her staff of three and several volunteers also teach bike safety classes at local schools. Around 300 children have participated in Gearin’ Up’s programs so far, and Lupo expects that number to grow quickly once the programs are up and running in the new space.

“Our next goal is to get 100 kids a bike,” Lupo said. “And I don’t think it will take long to reach it.”

Lupo also offers adult education classes including basic bike maintenance and a weekly BYOB (build your own bike) program where participants can purchase a frame and basic components for a reasonable fee and learn to build up their own bike.


Gearin’ Up Bicycles operated out of a shipping container its first summer in business.
Topics associated with this article: Advocacy/Non-profits

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