Padraic Swanton of Chicago's Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce
sent Stephan these questions in anticipation of publishing a story about the Dutch Bike Co. in The Source
summer 2010 edition.
LPCC: How long has Dutch Bike Co. been in business? Personally, how long have you been working for them?
SS [StephanSchier]: Dutch Bike Co was founded in Seattle by David Schmidt
in the spring of 2007. I became involved as a partner in October of 2007. We decided during the Summer of 2008 to open a Chicago store and I moved to Chicago in September 2008. We opened for business a few weeks later in the middle of October. I am now back in Seattle.
LPCC: What sets you apart from your competition in Chicago or across the country?
SS: Right from the start we decided we were going to become the Dutch bike experts – so we import ourselves, directly from Holland and focus on classic utility bikes – the bikes most typical to Amsterdam residents. Many of us live an everyday bicycling lifestyle, so we understand the needs of families and individuals who might never consider themselves “cyclists” in the sporting sense of the word, but want to ride a bike. We were the first to set up multiple locations (including warehousing bikes in NY) so that we could serve customers across the nation, and we have customers from coast to coast. We specialized in shipping fully assembled bikes all over the USA – typically getting to our customers in less than a week. We also have an online store at which people can purchase bikes and accessories.
Q: I need a bike. What should I be looking for?
You should look for a bike that is comfortable and meets your goals and needs. Are you training or are you commuting; do you want to shop or carry children; will you ride in inclement weather or at night? Answers to these questions will inform the types of bikes and accessories we would recommend. From there it's a question of how much money would you like to spend. We would always recommend buying the highest quality bike you can afford.. Our best WorkCycles
bikes will last you a lifetime.
LPCC: What’s the most common question clients ask you?
SS: Because of our Dutch bikes' size and heft: “Aren't these hard to ride up hills?” In Chicago (unlike Seattle) hills are not much of an issue, but our most popular WorkCycles all have the smoothest shifting, 8-speed internally geared hubs which will get most anyone (if they take their time) up most any hill.
LPCC: Why Chicago?
SS: Mayor Daley
and the high level of cycling advocacy
going on in Chicago was and continues to be a big attraction. The hundreds of miles existing bike lanes. The flat topography and neighborhood oriented lifestyle create a perfect climate for incorporating cycling into our everyday lives. In example, in Lincoln Park everything is within ten minutes by bike, from Trader Joes, to Whole Foods, to the gym, to the lake, to the post office and bank – there is little need for a car.
LPCC: How has your company changed over the years? Have you seen changes in the LPCC or the Chicago community?
SS: We grew quickly, took some early risks (coming to Chicago) and we've consolidated (closing our NY warehouse during the economic downturn) and now we are more cautiously moving our original shop to a new location in Seattle's historic Ballard Ave district which will include a cafe. Chicago continues to be an anchor. We are happy to have survived a rough period in which it seemed there were far too many empty storefronts in our Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Q: What are today’s trends in your business?
SS: Cycling fashions that look like everyday clothes. More practical everyday bikes for non-”cyclists”, that come equipped with baskets, racks, fenders and chain guards. Cargo bikes
(which we love), electric assisted bikes and more specialized (and expensive and trendy) bikes for sports and recreation from cyclocross, to downhill, to bmx, to fixed-gear. Cycling is more hip across a wide range of ages, occupations and lifestyles. Visit progressive Portland Oregon for a day and you will see the signs of the revolution.
LPCC: What do you look forward to most on a day-to-day basis?
SS: In Chicago, a grinning new customer riding away on their new bike. Seeing customers riding through the neighborhood taking their kids to school, shopping or going to work. Knowing that a bike can greatly improve the quality of someones life. In Seattle, I look forward to sunshine.
LPCC: What’s one thing you’d like everyone to know about Dutch Bike Co. or yourself?
SS: More than just being technical experts on Dutch and other bikes used for transportation and cargo, we live with bikes as our primary means of transportation. We love our bikes, but more importantly, we strive to love our city lives. Our beautiful and practical Dutch bikes support our view of an urban American utopia, where public transportation, pedestrians and cycle-friendly neighborhoods are king.
Q: Anything you’d like to add about your experience with the LPCC?
SS: Thank you for being advocates for our business and those of our peers in the Lincoln Park community.