Sitting down with owner Sarah Johnson was the most relaxed Local Awesome interview for me to date. Sarah is an Omaha native, and has worked in various bike shops over the years, but is finally bringing her 10+ years of bicycle experience into her very own shop. Over coffee and within the warm walls of the OBC, I learned that there are three things at the top of this lady’s list when it comes to her business:
1. The Coffee
2. The Bikes
3. The People
Those three things are in no particular order. In fact, #3 should probably be at the top, but for dramatic effect, I’ll leave it till the end. (You know me, I’m a sucker for dramatic effect.)
First of all, the coffee. Oh, man. These guys bring in a brand of coffee from Chicago called Intelligentsia. It’s delicious. Now, I’m not the world’s most distinguished coffee connoisseur, but I can tell when a cup of coffee is damn good. If you go to their website, you’ll see that they are a direct trade coffee company, which means that they deal directly with the farmers. They travel to the actual farms in countries like Guatemala and Rwanda twelve months out of the year. How’s that for quality concern?
They’ve got coffee for everyone, too. You want something sweet and covered in whipped cream? They’ve got it. You want a plain black cup of Joe? They’ve definitely got it. You’ve got a persnickety kid who hasn’t taken a nap and only wants to eat an espresso cup of whipped cream? Trust me, they’ve got it.
Now, here’s the other ingredient that makes this place so cool: the bikes. When you walk in, you’re greeted with warm-colored walls, great décor, a fully stocked espresso/coffee station, and an entire wall of bicycles. That’s right, bicycles. These guys not only make spectacular coffee, but also fix, build, and sell great-quality bicycles. There’s a healthy-but-small selection of new bikes for sale, but they mainly focus on custom-builds and repair. Every time I’ve walked in the door, I’ve seen Vince, the man with the bike-fixing plan, quietly working away behind the counter in back. Sarah is also responsible for bike work, and is actually a certified “fit technician,” which means that she’ll create a bike that fits you like it came attached to you when you entered this world. When you want them to build a custom bike for you, expect an interview. These guys want to find out who you are and what you do. You want a bike that will mainly get you to the grocery store, but someday take you biking across the West Coast? Or, you want a bike that powers your iPhone while you pedal to your destination? These guys have got you covered.
Granted, coffee and bikes are awesome. You know what’s truly truly awesome, though? Walking into a business for the first time and being genuinely welcomed. You know what’s even more awesome than that? Walking into a business the second time and being recognized (and then being genuinely welcomed again).
Sarah is very vocal about how important community is to her and the Omaha Bicycle Co. I went through my usual questions when we sat down together:
Me: Why Benson?
Sarah: There’s so much going on here. Benson is proud of Benson … and it’s just full of so much life.
Me: What’s your favorite thing about the shop?
Sarah: The people. Hands down. It’s like a place where people can just come out and geek out about bikes. I love it when people say, “I heard it’s a bike shop and a coffee shop, how’s that work?”
Community. That’s what I love more than bikes…People make things happen.
I don’t think Sarah will mind if I tell you that she got a little emotional talking about how much support she got from the community during the process of creating this business. The Omaha Bicycle Co. was built in spite of some rather unfortunate circumstances and a very uncertain summer, and the Omaha bicycling community wasted no time in lifting her up and carrying her through a very difficult time. An IndieGoGo campaign made over $15,000, and the donations keep on coming in the form of a beautiful back patio, and even a Christmas tree from a mysterious Secret Santa. The perky blonde making coffee? That’s Katie, and she’s there as a volunteer, working for tips.
“Community. That’s what I love more than bikes, is people.” Sarah said. “People make things happen.”