Bicycle: A mode of transportation that some people rely on to tackle the day.
Coffee: A beverage that some people rely on to get them through the day.
Bikes + coffee = happy people, but Michael Salvatore, owner and CEO of Heritage Bicycles, already knew this equation quite well. As a man who’s been around bicycles all his life, he couldn’t quite picture one without these pedal driven vehicles. After spending 5 years in the Big Apple bike world, he made the move back to his roots in Chicago, and decided to open up a shop that combined two of his loves – bikes & coffee.
Two cultures that you might not ever think about going hand in hand, but when you set foot inside Heritage, it all comes to light. The space is inviting, relaxed, and has a sense of solid community the minute you’re in the door. You can head to the back of the shop to have a flat fixed, or pick out a brand new Heritage Bicycle that is American made, and customized just for you. Up front, you can grab a coffee or a treat supplied by some of Chicago’s finest kitchens and roasters.
The thing I loved most about Heritage was the overall sense of community it has. The staff was friendly, the customers were smiling, and the atmosphere was warm. It’s the kind of place that you want to go spend hours in, flipping through the pages of a book, getting work done, or meeting up with friends. Michael is a family man, and he’s used that to his advantage to create this special community driven space in Chicago.
Next time you’re ever in the North Side, make it a point to stop by Heritage General Store. For a cup of joe, a bike tune up, or a space to spend a few hours in – this place won’t disappoint. Get to know a little bit more about Michael’s story below, and take a peek inside Heritage!
How did Heritage General Store come to be?
I had been living in NYC, where I owned a locally made bike company. When we had our son, Bennett, we knew we wanted to come back to Chicago and be closer to family. I’m a fifth-generation Chicagoan on my father’s side—that’s where the name Heritage comes from. As far as the coffee shop aspect of Heritage, well, I needed something to get customers in the door during the cold winter months!
What came first, a love for bikes or a love for coffee?
I’ve been riding bikes for longer than I’ve been drinking coffee…but I need both to get through my day.
Did you always know you wanted to own your own business at some point in your life, or was it something that just kind of happened?
That might be a better question for my wife and family—I think they’d say I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I’d tried a few things before hitting on bikes and coffee. I was never one for working a 9-5.
What’s your favorite part about owning Heritage General Store?
The amazing community that has sprung up around us. It seems like every day I meet new, great people. We wouldn’t be here without the support of our neighborhood.
Why do you think coffee and bikes go so well hand in hand?
I think coffee goes well with everything, to be honest!
Do you get a lot of regulars that come in? How do you keep up a sense of community in your shop?
We have a ton of regulars; some just come for the coffee, some just for the bikes, some are loyal to both. I don’t know how we got so lucky as to have such a sense of community, other than our huge communal table in the shop – it definitely encourages people to talk to one another.
Can you tell us a little bit about the neighborhood where Heritage General Store is located?
It’s an interesting section of Lakeview. It’s diverse, with lots of families as well as young people just starting out professionally. We have eclectic neighbors commercially, too, from used-furniture shops to private gyms. Overall I’d say it’s a good cross-section of the North Side of Chicago.
What’s your favorite part about living in Chicago?
Well, I grew up in Rogers Park/Edgewater so it’s the city I know best. I’d say I love everything about living here, but above all I love having my family close.
Would you say Chicago is a pretty big biking city? How do you incorporate it into your life, aside from the shop?
It’s a huge biking city, with more and more bike lanes being installed every day. It’s my principal way of getting around. When it’s warm out I like to start my day by biking down to the beach with Bennett. We have breakfast and play in the sand, then I bike us home and get down to work.
If you were to give one piece of advice to anyone who is looking to start their own business, what would it be?
Believe in your vision. You’ll meet a lot of skeptical people, and building out a store and getting proper permits and a dozen other roadblocks can break you if you waver at all in your conviction.
What do you think the future has in store for Heritage General Store?
We’re expanding to new locations and always coming out with new bike models – I’d say the future looks pretty good for us.
Thanks for letting us in, Michael!
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