A nonprofit organization at the heart of Santa Barbara’s cycling community is celebrating the move to a new downtown location, which it says will allow it to serve even more people.
Bici Centro, formerly located at 601 E. Montecito St. in the Casa de la Raza building, now has a new home at 506. E. Haley St. In a town with a plethora of options for wealthy cyclists, Bici offers the cheapest — and most hands-on — option for bikers more conscious of their cash, those wanting to learn how to work on their bikes, or both.
Bici Centro’s new space has six stations to service bikes during open shop hours. Volunteers also help cyclists repair their bikes at only the cost of the parts and a small fee.
Noozhawk stopped by last week to take a look at the new digs: 2,700 square feet that more than triples the floor space at the old location.
The shop opened Wednesday, and was more of a “soft opening,” according to executive director Ed France, who added that the organization will have a more formal ribbon cutting and kick-off in the spring.
To say that Bici Centro’s growth has been organic is an understatement.
The group had been at Casa de la Raza since its founding in 2007, meeting weekly on the outdoor patio to work on bikes. By the next year, Bici Centro had moved into an 800-square-foot space, but the organization has been steadily outgrowing it since — with more than 3,700 visits to the open shop sessions.
A two-year search began for a new location. As doors began to close, France said it became clear that Bici Centro would have to pay market rent to get the needed space.
When the organization discovered the Haley Street site, France said it was perfect — albeit a bit over the budget.
That’s when Bici Centro started an impressive fundraising effort that brought in $40,000 in two months. With the gain, officials were able to make a down payment on the East Haley Street building and pay rent for a year.
“We’ve never done anything on that scale,” France said.
The amount Bici Centro was able to raise is even more impressive because more than 90 donors contributed, from Santa Barbara City College students to donors with larger gifts.
“It was such an affirmation of what we do,” France said.
In many ways, the move allows Bici Centro to become even more of an educational force in the community than it already is.
In the vision of education director Christine Bourgeois, the parking lot behind the new shop will make for a great safety-training course for children.
Sheltered from the street, Bourgeois said she’d like to see a group of kids working with cones and learning how to use “sharrows” in the parking lot, while another group could be using the building’s classroom space or learning bike basics in the shop.
A large open room faces Haley Street and is filled with couches and book shelves. The room also will include a functioning classroom and meeting space for the organization.
One word came to Bourgeois’ mind when she saw the space: “amazing.”
“I thought ‘this place is huge, it’s visible from Haley Street, and it’s right next to a coffee shop’,” she said.
A second large room in the space is lined with donated bikes that volunteers have refurbished and are now for sale.
Two rear storage units will allow Bici to accept more donated gear that it can sell.
“We’re kind of like a thrift store for bike stuff,” France said. “This space allows that.”
Bici Centro is always looking for volunteers, which it offers to train for free. Financial donations, as well as bikes and bike parts, are also welcome, France said.