Walking into Velosmith has very little in common with walking into other bike shops. Where most shops are cluttered, Velosmith is curated. Where most shops can be intimidating and even unpleasant, Velosmith is welcoming and attentive. The space is clean and well-organized, but those are all by-products of their attention to detail into every aspect of their business.
When Tony set out to create Velosmith in 2010/11 he put years of retail and manufacturing experience to work. Having spent his formative years in Alberto's Cycles, started by his father, then continuing on to Seven Cycles, Tony had plenty of time in the industry. A few things were made very clear when talking to him about Velosmith, but the most important is that there is a vision, and every thing that happens inside his doors and around his brand, matters.
It was made abundantly clear that inside Velosmith, things are done with purpose. It's not coincidence that the showroom flows from bikes, to the build area, to the fit area. It's not coincidence where bikes are placed, how they are hung, or how clothing and parts are displayed. This studio is very much a showcase of the pride Velosmith takes in every project they partake. Custom counters reflect the same detail as the Parlee and Seven bicycles hanging from the walls.
"The experience" was mentioned multiple times while we talked about what Velosmith is. I looked for more, wanting to know what was in Tony's head, what was this experience meant to be? It starts with the fit, it's always about the fit. That was engrained into Tony early on, and it's something that's never left. He graduated in the very first class from Serotta, he was the Head Fit Technician with Seven Cycles, and those years of experience are at he forefront of the Velosmith Experience. But it doesn't stop there.
Every component sold at Velosmith has been tested by the staff. It has to be durable, beautiful, and best-in-class. Every component serves it's purpose at the highest levels. Every component fills a need for Velosmith customers exactly as intended, or they wouldn't carry it.
The same can be said about the frames Velosmith carries. Brands are chosen not based off of margins or marketing, but design. The custom brands carried here, Seven, Mosaic, Parlee, are all known for building classically beautiful frames, with unmatched quality and finish.
We're going to spend more time with Tony in the future and learn more about the man behind Velosmith, but suffice it to say, Velosmith wouldn't exist without him, and with Tony behind it, Velosmith couldn't exist in any other way.
If you find yourself around the Chicagoland area, there can be no excuse to not make the trip to the suburbs to visit Velosmith. Where The Boulder Service Course struck me as the quintessential "pro shop," Velosmith is everything a "studio" should be. Replace the bikes on the walls with original artwork from any museum and it would be right at home. Talking with Tony is inspiring and leaves no doubt why riders find themselves on his fit cycle and riding bikes coming from Velosmith.
photos and words by Brandon Elliott