Biking in NKC is on a roll with full-service bike shop
Velo Garage and Tap House hits a sweet spot, the overlapping section of a Venn diagram between groups of cycling enthusiasts and craft beer fans.
Co-owners Kiley Sutter and Steve Borden opened Velo in March 2017. The business has two halves – a craft beer taproom and bike shop. That combination might seem odd, but it appeals to many customers that either drink beer or ride bikes as a hobby. Often, they enjoy both activities.
The tap house has ten taps behind the bar that rotate selections on a regular basis. “We carry local beers and sometimes rare beers that are harder to find,” says Sutter. “We appeal to beer and bike guys and gals.”
Local breweries represented include Stockyards Brewing, Boulevard Brewing, and Free State Brewing. Selections from other notable breweries, such as Dogfish Head, Coop Ale Works, and Founders, demonstrate the dedication to premium craft beer.
Velo is a convenient destination located in bike-friendly North Kansas City. Customers and cyclists that live throughout the Northland and across the Missouri River in Kansas City can easily ride or drive to Velo. The bicycle and pedestrian path on the Heart of America Bridge provides safe passage for those riding north and southbound to or from Velo.
Unsurprisingly, cold, full-flavored craft beer on tap is an incentive and reward for many cycling enthusiasts to begin and end rides at Velo. Others simply meet up for a beer to socialize and talk shop about rides and gear.
“We host events that promote bike and beer culture, such as Fat and Furious, a bike drag race,” says Sutter. “We have karaoke and trivia nights. Thirstday one-hour night rides have two groups. One group rides to train while the other group rides at a nice pace. Both groups meet at Velo afterward for a beer and hang out.”
Soon, Velo will have a Sunday license to sell and serve beer, increasing its appeal to weekend cyclists. Besides beer, Velo sells light bar snacks, such as Thēz Nuts and pretzels, and Maps coffee. Riders refuel on carbohydrates after an invigorating ride around the West and East Bottoms, or other urban routes.
Sutter and Borden sub-leased a section of Velo Garage and Tap House’s 3,000 square-foot space to Vince Rodriguez, owner of Lenexa-based Velo Plus. Velo Plus combines a bike shop with Maps Coffee Roaster and they operate under one roof. Similarly, Velo Garage and Tap House represents another spin on the hybrid multi-business concept. If a bike needs repair or maintenance, then Velo Garage provides on-site service as well as handling sales. Two full-time bike technicians manage repairs and sales.
“We’re a full-service bike shop,” says Sutter. “We carry brands like Salsa for adventure and mountain biking, Kona, and Masi.”
Adventure biking refers to cyclists that pack gear for cross-country and overnight trips. The shop also sells bikes and gear for urban and suburban commuting and off-road.
Sutter found inspiration for Velo while traveling around the country.
“Minneapolis, Portland, Fort Collins, Denver, and San Francisco have businesses that combine two concepts,” says Sutter. “I’m a fan of cycling, beer, and coffee. I wanted to be able to sit in my cycling kit, drink a beer, and feel normal. My wife and I travel a lot. We saw these shops in other locations and decided to do it in Kansas City.”
Initially, the concept manifested as VeloWagon, a converted 1969 Volkswagen bus equipped with four beer taps that also served as a mobile bike repair and delivery vehicle. Sutter and Borden operated the mobile business for 18 months before committing to a brick-and-mortar shop last spring. They still use the bus for marketing and mobile beer and bike service at events.
Now, Sutter and Borden share responsibilities for daily operations at the storefront. As the business matures, they are actively “building the brand and focusing on growth.”
“We want to ensure the people can bike safely and effectively,” says Sutter. “The more infrastructure there is for biking in the city, the better. We’re driving the culture of cycling. You can explore the coolest parts of Kansas City from a bicycle.”
Velo Garage and Tap House
1403 Swift, North Kansas City, MO