A pantry of a different kind

Bike Pantry provides bicycles to those in need


Journal Staff Writer

ISHPEMING — Your not-so-typical pantry has moved into the first floor of the Gossard Building in Ishpeming.

The Bike Pantry, an L3C– low-profit, limited liability charity — provides the community with free and affordable outdoor equipment. What might be considered junk to some is now being turned into usable equipment for those looking to get outdoors or as a means of transportation.

“We recognized there was a need in the community and Alex and I being bike mechanics ourselves, it’s really fun for us. For us, it was more of a hobby,” Bike Pantry cofounder Mark Hall said about himself and cofounder Alex Babcock. “We thought, well if there’s enough bikes going into the trash, why don’t we try to fix them up and give them away for people who need transportation or to recreate?”

Hall said next summer the pantry plans to branch out with skateboards and backpacking.

“(We’re) just trying to get people out in the woods recreating on the cheap so people don’t have to feel like they can spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on stuff,” he said. “It’s a barrier for a lot of people, so we want to provide the means for people to do those things without breaking the bank.”

Babcock added that outdoor recreation can sometimes be expensive.

“But if done simply, it can be done fairly affordably with gear that’s usually pushed aside or unused,” he said. “So we just like to have a place to gather that and be a hub to kind of spread that wealth around.”

While the Bike Pantry has only been open for six months, the idea first came to light two years ago when Babcock was working at Velodrome Coffee Company in Ishpeming.

“The fourth floor is kind of a storage space for the (Gossard) building. It’s been largely unused for 30 years or more,” Babcock said. “So we just kind of started cleaning up there for rent more or less. (The owners) let us use that space and that’s where the majority of the bikes are at.”

He said the Bike Pantry has 50 to 60 bikes on the fourth floor, a space that is used more in the summer due to the lack of heat.

“We’re hoping for more snow, we got some snowboards ready to go if we get snow,” Babcock said. “Otherwise, we’re going to be ready for spring with lots of bikes.”

To get the community interested and into the space, Babcock said the Bike Pantry hosts monthly events — bike teardowns and bike builds.

“We just did a teardown last month where people came in and we took bikes that weren’t in very good shape and tore them down to frames,” he said. “Now (the frames) can be built back up with new parts into some pretty nice bikes.”

The Bike Pantry also hosted a Halloween bike ride to get people interested and aware of the pantry.

“Mark is very into the mining culture of the area and very historically minded, so (he) kind of led a little historical tour of the mines while we’re on our bikes,” Babcock said. “Moving forward, we just want to keep up with the monthly events and get them outdoors as soon as we can.”

So far, the Bike Pantry has been able to give away 12 to 15 bikes. Babcock added that there is no cost to get a bike through the pantry.

“If someone needs a bike, they can get in contact with us through Facebook or Instagram and we will get them a bike,” he said.

The Bike Pantry also takes in donations to help provide more bikes to the community.

“We’ve had very generous donors come in through the workshops that we’ve done and donate to where we can get more tools,” Babcock said. “We’ve been given bike stands now, so we have four or five stations where everyone can have their own set of tools and their own area to break bikes down. We were a little overwhelmed last time we did it. People were just kind of all over the place, on the floor and sharing tools. So that was really fun but we’re going to get better at it.”

The pantry’s first fundraising project is for the proposed Ishpeming skatepark, which would be located one block east of the Ishpeming City Hall.

Babcock said the pantry has been doing fundraising in the form of concerts in the building.

“We were able to buy 20-some skateboards where we will have artists paint them. In February, at Velodrome in town, we will have an auction (with the painted skateboards) and those funds will be donated to the skatepark,” he said. “We’re trying to build up from having a small concert and then building that up into whatever we can to at least garner interest and make sure the city knows that we (the community) want the skatepark.”

Babcock stressed that he wants the community to know that there are no fees when it comes to the Bike Pantry.

“We do what we can to make it free, even if it’s not free for us, we do our best to make it free for the community. Mark and I are not making anything from this, it’s all volunteer-based,” he said. “We’d love to have more people come in and (run) it. We both have full-time jobs, but this is a passion we’d be doing otherwise, so it’s awesome to have a space to do it.”

The Bike Pantry can be found on the first floor of the Gossard Building in downtown Ishpeming or online on Facebook and Instagram. The pantry can also be reached at 906-204-6928.

Dreyma Beronja can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 548. Their email address is dberonj@miningjournal.net.


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