In January, Kim Strang and husband Andrew Francis opened Cafe Velo, a European-inspired cafe with a twist — in addition to serving fresh espresso, the cafe houses a bike shop. While Strang serves up beer, wine, espresso, and cold sandwiches, Francis operates the in-house bike shop. The couple were inspired by their love of cycling and time spent abroad, where cafes are plentiful. Cafe Velo is not just a place to quickly grab a bite or a beverage, it is a place with a clear sense of community. “You can drop off your bike and grab a beer while you wait. It is always just me. I’m going to recognize you and your bike,” Francis said.
The cafe is well situated between the Lettered Streets neighborhood and downtown, making it a regular stop for cycling commuters each morning, Francis said. Just a few blocks from all of Bellingham’s downtown museums, Cafe Velo also gets a lot of foot traffic from museum-goers and tourists. And with plenty of outdoor seating — and bike racks — customers can enjoy their beverages in the summer sun. Should visitors stop in on a rainy day, the interior space is bright and full of color. Red chairs line the seating space and sky blue paint covers doors and walls. “We want to make this people’s third space. It isn’t work, or home, but it is another place where they can spend time,” Strang said. The couple even brings down a projector screen each day to play cycling tours and competitions, like last month’s Tour de France.
Francis and Strang took their European theme not only to the atmosphere, but to their menu as well. After spending a summer bike touring in and around Nice, they fell in love with the simplicity of French cold sandwiches. “Our menu is based on the picnic-style food we ate in France,” Francis said. The result is a straightforward menu of six sandwiches, all named after their favorite climbs from bicycle racing, and cost between $5 and $8. As for thirst-quenchers, there are four rotating taps, five house wines, and espresso-based coffee. To stay true to the theme, there is always a European beer on tap and visitors won’t find American-style drip coffee.
The cafe is unlike any coffee shop or bike repair store in Bellingham. Francis and Strang said the best part of incorporating the functions together is that it allows them to build relationships with customers. Unlike traditional bike repair shops, Francis doesn’t just see his customers a few times a year for a tune-up. Instead, they often become regulars, drawn by the laid-back atmosphere and quality menu. “We are offering what we love, we are not trying to compete with anyone,” Strang said.
Visitors should check out the cafe’s events calendar on their website, which lists the tours that will be screened each day, in addition to any special events. Every Thursday anyone who rides to Cafe Velo receives $1 off beer or wine.