Like most independent retailers, the stiffest competition bike shop owner Steve Martin faces usually comes from websites and big-box stores that sell mass-produced bike brands.
That's why Martin, an ad executive-turned-entrepreneur who founded Bike Bistro in Fort Myers in 2012, seeks to make his business as personal as possible. His latest move in that direction is the Bike Bistro Velo Van, a mobile bike delivery system. “There are only a handful of bike shops in our area and not all are conveniently located for the average bike rider,” says Martin in a statement. “It's important for me to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy a healthy and safe bike ride so I decided that I want to take my bike shop to the riders in the neighborhoods.”
The Velo Van — Velo is French for bike — is actually a 2006 Freightliner Sprinter 2500 Hi-Top van with an extended cargo area powered by a Mercedes 5-cylinder engine. Martin bought the van and customized it. The interior is insulated with aircraft aluminum that encloses a custom bike workbench mount with a custom top to fit a stainless steel tool chest. There's enough room to store and move up to a dozen standard-sized bicycles.
A design from area artist Joe Mahler covers the exterior, with assistance from Human Signs of Cape Coral. Beach Fender Mender of Fort Myers provided additional body and paintwork to complete the Velo Van.
“We intend to use Velo Van for deliveries, on-site repairs and sales,” says Martin. “We hope to go into communities to provide bike repairs and sales of new bikes and accessories.”