The New York Times: Globespotters, 29/07/2010
The French love to cycle, and something in the Parisian psyche in particular is drawn to the elegant design and liberating spirit of the bicycle. Two college friends, Hugo Badia and Eddy Delgado, have turned this love into a thriving business.
Mr. Badia and Mr. Delgado travel the French countryside in search of unwanted, unusual bicycles. Back in their shop, Vélo Vintage (58 rue du Ruisseau; 33-6-13-13-42-27; velo-vintage.com) in the 18th Arrondissement, they fully recondition them. Painted in striking colors and given names like “Arcade,” “Cambridge” and “La Perle,” the bikes are available for between 80 and 250 euros (about $100 to $315, at $1.25 to the euro). It’s cheap compared with prices for new bikes in Paris — a top-of-the-line set of wheels might set you back upwards of 1,000 euros — but the two still turn a healthy profit each month.
The pair first started the project as a hobby in college. Working out of their apartment their initial clients were friends, but demand quickly began to outstrip supply. “It started with two bikes, then 10, then 20,” Mr. Badia recalled. “We decided we needed to find a shop.”
They say their varied client base includes women looking for an alternative to over-crowded and over-heated public transport, especially in summer. Moreover, in image-conscious Paris, the duo offer a range of stylish frames to match cutting-edge fashions. The store is also popular among Americans in Paris for short-term stays. “They want a great bike for six months, a year, then they sell it before they leave,” Mr. Badia said.
The store has become a go-to for Parisians in-the-know, in this emerging area of north Paris. Creative types like Mr. Delgado and Mr. Badia, driven out of the city center by exorbitant rent prices, have settled in rundown areas like the 18th and left their mark. “It’s like Brooklyn 10 years ago,” Mr. Badia said. “Before, there was a lot of crime and drugs around here. Now, new bars and strange shops like ours open up all the time.”