Shawnee & Lenexa

Biz Snapshot: Velo + finds its niche with eclectic offerings

“If you drew a Venn diagram around coffee, bicycles and chocolate, there’s happiness right in the middle,” says Vincent Rodriguez of Velo +.
“If you drew a Venn diagram around coffee, bicycles and chocolate, there’s happiness right in the middle,” says Vincent Rodriguez of Velo +. Submitted photo

From the outside, Velo + in Lenexa’s Old Town may seem like a bicycle shop. But what owner Vincent Rodriguez had in mind when he opened the doors in June 2013 was something a little broader and more eclectic.

The shop does sell bikes, yes. But bicycles are only one of several things going on at the store. There’s also the open shop nights for bicycle repair, the coffee roaster and, in the not-too distant future, perhaps a chocolate-making operation.

Rodriguez describes the vibe at his store this way: “If you drew a Venn diagram around coffee, bicycles and chocolate, there’s happiness right in the middle.”

Q. Does your bicycle business have a specialty?

The shop carries a lot of steel-frame bikes, Rodriguez said. In fact, custom-bike builder Julie Pedalino makes and sells her own bikes from Velo +. The store also sells Kona, Surly and All-City bikes. Rodriguez said he wants to offer different kinds of bikes than the typical aluminum or more expensive carbon frame road bikes because people use bicycles for commuting and leisure riding in everyday living. The store also carries fat-tired bikes that can be ridden on sand beaches or in snow.

Q. How does the coffee fit in, then?

After the bike shop got up and running, Rodriguez, a former district manager at Starbucks, decided it was time to add another skill to the mix. He bought a 15-kilo Loring commercial roaster and began roasting beans. The result is sold under the Maps coffee label.

Velo + doesn’t have enough room for a coffee shop, but Rodriguez sells bagged coffee there. He also sells it online and to wholesale customers. His coffee also is an ingredient in Boulevard Brewery’s Early Riser coffee porter.

He also brews beer, he said, but only gives it away occasionally as samples.

Q. Do you also fix bikes?

Customers can bring their bicycles in to be fixed, but the store also offers an open shop night every Wednesday in which riders can come in and learn how to do their own repair work. “It’s a come-as-you-are bike shop,” he said. “You can pick up a wrench and learn how and it’s open to everyone. People like to be here. I only ask that you bring some beer,” for the community beer fridge, he said.

Q. What prompted you to start this type of business?

Rodriguez spent 18 years learning all things coffee at Starbucks, but eventually left because he wanted to learn different skills. “When I left Starbucks, I wanted to make things handmade,” he said.

So he set about learning how to make bread, build steel frame bikes, brew beer and roast coffee. “I’m a new renaissance man. I love learning to learn,” he said. “I believe we each have the same amount of time in a day. How we spend that time is what makes us different.”

The store is an outgrowth of those interests. “I wanted to engage with coffee and bikes in a different way, so I created an experience where you come in and learn about bikes and coffee and beer,” he said.

Q. What’s the next thing you plan on learning?

Chocolate is next on the list, Rodriguez said.

As it happens, the highly-efficient coffee roaster, which Rodriguez calls, “the world’s most over-engineered roaster,” is also perfect for roasting cacao, the basis of chocolate.

Eventually, Rodriguez would like to become a chocolatier, making bars of chocolate out of the cacao beans that would be sold to confectioners who go on to make the candy. “I intend to be the only bean-to-bar manufacturer in town.”

In a nutshell

Company: Velo +

Address: 13440 Santa Fe Trail Drive, Lenexa

Telephone: 913-888-0533

Website: http://velopluskc.com/

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