At its height, it reached three feet.
The color of chocolate milk, the water flooded The Tricycle Shop’s first-floor retail and café space, submerging bistro tables and balance bikes, buoying trash cans and stacks of paper cups, lapping at the midsections of mannequins sporting branded jerseys.
Hurricane Ida’s September 2021 rampage through the Philadelphia region could scarcely have come at a worse time for The Tricycle, a bike shop-café hybrid located in the historic Miller’s House near the Spring Mill train station — and the Schuylkill River Trail — in Conshohocken (see also, Grid #146, July 2021). When the rains came and the Schuylkill spilled over its banks, The Tricycle had been open for less than two months.
The Tricycle’s name is a reference to its trio of co-owners — husband and wife Michael “Cycle Mycle” Brown and Adena Brewington-Brown, plus Isaiah Urbino — but also a nod to African-American inventor Matthew Cherry, who patented a three-wheeled, human-powered vehicle in 1888.
Hailed at its opening (by neighborhood news site MoreThanTheCurve.com) as “the only Black-owned restaurant in Conshohocken,” The Tricycle is an outgrowth of Brown’s Gandhi-esque personal motto: “If you want change, be the change.” Rather than complaining about less-than-stellar experiences at area bike shops or the lack of BIPOC representation in the local cycling scene, Brown and his partners opted to build a business to meet the need they had identified.
“The way I see it is as an equalizer,” Brown says in a slickly produced (by big-time bicycle manufacturer Specialized) video on The Tricycle’s website, “a place of inclusion, somewhere that you can come to and feel welcomed.” The Tricycle’s tagline? “The New Hub of Conshohocken’s Biking Community.”
In the aftermath of Ida, that same community rallied around the fledgling establishment, already recognized as a one-stop shop for tune-ups, sweet rides and smoothies to die for (e.g., “The Conshy Cup,” a blend of chocolate, peanut butter, banana and espresso). When the floodwaters subsided, volunteers spent hours removing the mud and damaged goods left in their wake. A GoFundMe campaign has raised over $30,000, an influx of cash co-owner Urbino calls “instrumental” in helping The Tricycle “stay afloat during a difficult winter season.”
Having weathered the literal storm, The Tricycle has redoubled its efforts to give back to the community that sustained it. The team has done Earth Day outreach and taken area youngsters on shop tours. They’ve partnered with Specialized and youth cycling nonprofit Outride to build bikes for a program at William T. Tilden Middle School in Southwest Philly’s Paschall neighborhood.
The Tricycle is also forging ahead on its mission to bring people together around cycling — “no matter what ethnicity, self identity, age or religion,” Urbino emphasizes. Group rides roll out from the shop, some organized in conjunction with such outfits as the Kings Rule Together and Queens Rule Together cycling clubs (Grid #149, October 2021). The Tricycle hosts bike maintenance clinics. You can meet the roasters from Greenstreet Coffee Co. or the folks behind the Philly Bike Expo. You can browse an art market or hear Marlon Moncrieffe discuss his new book, “Desire, Discrimination, Determination: Black Champions in Cycling,” or treat yourself to a caramel latte.
And The Tricycle has only just begun its three-wheeled roll. In July, shortly after the Conshohocken shop celebrated its one-year anniversary, the owners disclosed to Grid that they had acquired West Philly’s Velojawn bike shop and planned to make it a second location. They were also excited about a fall “bikepacking” collaboration with Norris Square’s Keystone Bicycle Co. aimed at showcasing Philadelphia’s winning combination of beautiful trails and rich history.
“During all of this tumultuous first year,” explained Urbino, “opportunities have also presented themselves in a flood.”