I already miss Adeline Adeline.
The venerable Tribeca shop, a celebration of lovely upright bicycles and accessories for city riding founded by Julie Hirschfeld, closed its doors two weeks ago. The neat row of cargo bikes no longer lines the sidewalk, and the pretty window displays are gone. What remains is a legacy of a more stylish and carefree way of looking at city bicycling, and a compelling model for making bike shopping a more pleasant experience.
From the day that Adeline Adeline opened in 2010 at 147 Reade Street, it was like no other bike shop in the city. The store took its unusual named from Julie’s grandmothers, both of whom were named Adeline.
Its tag line: “A Very Nice Bicycle Shop.” And it was!
Inside an airy, loft-like expanse, classically-inspired bicycles stretched in a swath of colored steel along one wall. Wooden racks and shelves on the facing wall displayed beautifully designed helmets, bags, baskets and lights. Touches of whimsy, like hand-painted bike bells nestled on cupcake stands, heightened the sense of shopping pleasure and discovery. All reflected Julie’s keen eye and background in graphic design and branding.
Making Bike Shopping More Fun
Beyond the esthetic, though, was a commitment to making bicycling fun and accessible. Julie’s goal was to create a friendly, welcoming environment, with a high level of customer service. Adeline Adeline was a place where one could explore, ask questions, gain practical advice, take a bike out for a spin. People stopped in from the neighborhood, and from well beyond New York City’s borders.
I remember discovering Julie’s website for the first time, as I know countless others who love city bicycling do. It was a revelation, not just for the individual products found there, but for the totality of the vision. Skirt guards, helmets that resembled hats, sprung saddles in rich leather, big wicker baskets – all connected bicycles, as iconic objects and as simple machines for daily transport, with hip and stylish urban living.
Bicycling as Lifestyle
This idea of placing bicycling into the realm of “normal” everyday activity – one that already has credence in other parts of the world — was new and noticed here. Julie was often quoted in the media in New York City and around the world, as interest in urban cycling style grew through photo blogs, lifestyle marketing and other sources.
“Biking is not this other thing you have to do,” Julie told Vanity Fair in 2012. “It just becomes part of what you do daily in routine. I want the bike and accessories and everything to look like it’s part of your life.”
Julie and I first met at a fundraiser for Transportation Alternatives in 2010. We connected around a common passion and became friends. I was also a customer: I bought my midnight blue Pashley Britannia and its glorious accessories at Adeline Adeline.
I have great memories of events that Julie hosted at the shop: a launch party for the Kate Spade x Adeline Adeline bicycle (above), a book signing for Hollywood Rides a Bike, the step-off for an evening scavenger-hunt ride to benefit T.A.
We traveled together to the National Bike Summit, and got kicked out of the “quiet” car on the Accela for talking too much. In 2012, we teamed up to host a pop-up shop of hand-crafted bicycle accessories at the New Amsterdam Bicycle Show.
The Road Ahead?
Recall that, in the not too distant past, the image of a city cyclist tended to involve a racing or fixed gear bicycle and a certain warrior spirit. Julie was out front in recognizing what the transformation of New York City’s streets through a growing bike lane network, improved safety and eventually bike share would mean to everyday bicycling here. She still may be. In a letter to her customers and suppliers, Julie writes:
“I can’t say what that future holds, but I know that the next 5 years will see even more radical change than what we’ve seen so far. I’m confident that for those who love bikes today – and especially for those who will love them tomorrow – the best is yet to come.”
“For us to move forward, we must leave the past behind. We must say goodbye to the store that inspired us, yet still binds us to the traditional bike shop model – a model that I aspire to leap beyond.”
So perhaps this is just goodbye for now. I hope so.