Alison Lucien (above), owner of Eleanor’s, rings up a customer from behind the rustic wood counter of her vest-pocket-size bicycle accessories shop in Brooklyn’s Dekalb Market. The woman is buying a button decorated with a bike; she seems wistful as she admits to a fear of riding in the city.
The convivial Lucien encourages the customer to look into WE BIKE, a local organization that hosts social rides, bicycle repair classes and other activities to help encourage interest in cycling among NYC women.
Equal parts entrepreneur, bicycle accessories stylist (Does this basket go with my bike?) and evangelist for cycling, Lucien presides over a business focused exclusively on stylish accoutrement for city riders: helmets, baskets, bells, handlebar bags, and the like.
Lucien’s inspiration for the shop sprung from her own needs. For her work in the fashion industry, Lucien wore a polished look on her daily bike commute from Clinton Hill in Brooklyn to Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, but says she couldn’t find a bicycle basket worthy of ferrying her designer handbag.
Quest for the Chic and Functional
With a wave of new cycling infrastructure rolling across the city and more New Yorkers embracing cycling, Lucien speculated that she was not alone in her quest for chic and functional cycling accessories. As a 10-year veteran of accessories merchandising, most recently for saks.com, Lucien’s experience in sourcing products and negotiating deals served her well when she made the decision to launch her business in mid-February of this year.
“It was fun, because this time I was doing it for myself,” Lucien says.
She opened the door to Eleanor’s, which is named for her and her husband’s grandmothers, just a month and a half later. Like all the businesses at Dekalb, Eleanor’s is housed in a re-purposed cargo container; Lucien points to tiny specs of red in the white-washed floor, a clue to the container’s former identity as a Santa-in-a-box holiday pop-up shop. The inviting, lace-curtained interior with charming vintage decor showcases accessories such as Bobbin panniers, House of Talents baskets, Iva Jean rain capes and SpokeNWheel bells. Lucien’s vintage Schwinn is parked outside.
Eleanor’s closes for the season on September 30 and will reopen at a new location in spring of 2013. In the mean time, customers will be able to shop online.
Lucien favors handmade accessories, many created by local NYC vendors, and prides herself on a selection of items not found in regular bike shops, at a range of price points, including “inexpensive things to make your bike look pretty.” Indeed, many customers turn to Lucien for styling advice. “My customer really pays attention to accessories that match the colors of her bike,” she says.
Her bestseller? Garters from Bird Industries that prevent cyclists’ skirts from flying up while pedaling. Among items unique to Lucien’s assortment are vintage wooden crates that mount on rear racks; she picks these up on early-morning trips to upstate flea markets before opening the shop on weekends. Bearing names like Old Bushmill’s Distillery Ale, the crates, which fasten with simple hardware and are priced in the $45 range, are popular gifts for men.
What’s next? As Lucien seeks to build her business, she’s working with several design partners to develop cycling accessories that deliver fashion and function to her customers in creative new ways. Just this week Lucien’s Instagram feed bubbled with inspirations from the Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Fair in Massachusetts. So stay tuned!