Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The 8th Ave Bike and Coffee House, Gainesville, FL

As I might have mentioned, I've been out of town, which has been great. Unfortunately, I'm about to be back in town this Saturday, which means we can re-commence hating everything together. Until then, I'll be wrapping up my vacation in Gainesville: A place where the drivers are friendly, the bike lanes are a-plenty, the music is non-stop, the beer is affordable, the coffee is local, and the rent is cheap. I've thoroughly enjoyed my summer here, and this next bit will be on my new favorite establishment in Gainesville: The 8th Ave Bike and Coffee House. That's right, it's a bike shop, and a coffee shop, simultaneously. Could we please get something like this started at home, Miami?

The day I visited was the grand opening party, complete with balloons, banners, and free coffee all day. After my morning teeth brushing, beer can recycling, and dishes-doing, I rode on over to check it out. When I walked in, the most strikingly awesome thing about the relatively large space was that all the walls were covered with gorgeous bicycle frames. I’m talking a mid 20th century international array of lugged beauties in paint schemes that only existed in the dreams of 1960’s Italian frame builders.

The incredibly friendly staff were quick to  share  stories about all the rare frames they've acquired, all while sipping piping hot cups of  Sweetwater coffee, a local brand to Gainesville. Curious cog-heads and coffee drinkers trickled in and milled around the shop all day, test riding the vintage rides, as well as bringing their own bikes in for a little service.

The shop’s focus is vintage road bikes, but they also carry a small selection of new bikes by a company called Gavin, which is based out of St. Augustine, FL. On the coffee side the shop, the commitment is to buy local, which they do so for all their coffee and chocolates. Complete with a generous amount of chairs and tables, free wi-fi access, and all the vintage-bicycle-eye-candy anyone could ever want, it's no surprise that this place was an instant hit for me.  To quote one of the customers, "It's like a dog park for bikes." 

Between snapping bunches of pictures and drinking mug-fulls of coffee, I had a short conversation with Musa Blount, a co-owner of the business, and with Eliza Lutz, one of the baristas. Mr. Musa Blount, a friendly guy with a constant smile, greeted me with a hug.

Arthur: What's your favorite aspect of this shop?

Musa: I think it's meeting new people, sharing stories, and seeing cool bikes.

Arthur: What are the challenges of opening up another bike shop in Gainesville, a place with so many already?

Musa: I guess the challenge is to not impede the business of the other local bike shops. But they all have their own niches and target markets, so that gives us room to do what we do.

Arthur: What are you most excited about achieving with 8th avenue bike shop?

Musa: Giving people what they want: More choices. If they want discounts for buying bulk they can have it. I want people to have cool bikes for the money. I want to pay people well to work here, and I want this place to be a nice place to hang out and talk about bikes. 

Arthur: What do you have to add to the city that Gainesville is missing?

Musa: I’m not sure there’s anything missing from gainesville, actually. We’re just adding more of the same good stuff.

Arthur: Can customers of 8th Ave expect events and attractions besides bikes and coffee?

Musa: We hope to be a venue for local musicians, artists, and poets. Probably more. We want to give people a place to do the things they like to do. It  should be a fun place for races, events, and rides. 

Arthur: What got you into bikes?

Musa: It’s the sense of freedom. As a kid, it’s the only way to go anywhere on your own. It’s something that you have a lot of control over, too. When you're young and don’t have money, you could still figure out how to fix your bike. You can pick the colors you want and the components you want. It’s definitely the freedom.

Arthur: What should potential customers know about this shop?

Musa: They can expect unique bikes and components at good prices, with good, fast service. They should also expect a level of professionalism here. Bicycles are serious vehicles, and you can die on them, so we believe it requires a level of skill and professionalism to maintain them properly. We’re here for everyone, so we want to cater to whatever ideas our customers might have. Maybe they have an idea for their bike that other shops would scoff at, but we’re willing to give anything a try.

 After speaking with Musa, I headed over to the coffee bar. Eliza had just finished talking to a customer about the locally prepared chocolate they sold when I came over to ask for an interview.

Arthur: What's your name?

Eliza: Eliza Lutz

Arthur: Lutz like the “triple lutz” in ice skating?

Eliza: I'm a single Lutz.

Arthur: What's the philosophy of the coffee shop?

Eliza: Well, I wasn’t in Gainesville when 2nd Street Bakery was around, but the guys always said that the environment was what made it great. Very laid back, and comfortable. I think that’s the kind of environment we want here. Also, everyone there was into bikes. Bikes are big part of Gainesville culture, so I feel like the two shops are nautual fusion here at 8th Ave Bike and Coffee House.

Arthur: Coffee shops and bike shops are both very aromatic establishments. What do you think about the mix?

Eliza: I think that the coffee aroma definitely overpowers the bikes, which is a good thing. Doesn’t actually smell much like bikes here, which is good for most customers.

Arthur: Is there anything about the shop that you think potential customers should know?

Eliza: It’s a great place to get bikes that were assembled by people who really care. Same for the coffee. It may not be the absolute best you’ve ever had, but it will be really solid, and something most people can afford.

Arthur: What would you like to see the coffee shop grow into in a year from now?

Eliza: I would hope that eventually we can expand and solidify the menu. Im not big on iced drinks, but we’re in the south and its hot, so its gonna be a fact. I’d like to have all the standards and basics, but to always improve our products, and keep our purchases local.

Arthur: What’s your favorite aspect of the shop?

Eliza: The fact that I can get super caffeinated and work on my bike.

So, next time you're in Gainesville, and you're on 8th Avenue, and if you have a bike, or if you like coffee, stop on by the 8th Ave Bike and Coffee House.


  1. excellent investigative journalism! you really give it to them...

  2. I'm as objective as they come...clearly.

  3. On livejournal people like to post in the gainesville community like every other week asking about coffee places in gainesville. I link to this review!

    Thanks, IReallyHateMiami!


  5. PlanetRAWK will be on tour performing at the 8th ave bike and coffee shop Feb 18th come out and see us