Photo by Chris Bruntlett
Lamar Timmins of Allo Velo
It was an eye-opening, two-wheeled trek across Europe – including a stint as a bicycle tour guide in Munich, Germany – that provided 26-year-old Montreal native Lamar Timmins with the impetus to open Allo Velo, a bike boutique and cafe in his neighborhood of St.-Henri. There, visitors can stop in for a tune-up and an espresso while perusing the carefully curated selection of Dutch-style bicycles, bespoke accessories, and imported cargo bikes. It is a concept seldom seen on this side of the Atlantic: a retail space designed to share its owner’s love for an amazingly simple invention, and the ever-rewarding lifestyle he hopes it inspires others to lead.
When it came to building a brick and mortar shop from the ground up, Timmins wasn’t too proud to ask for help from the people he loves. “It has totally been a family affair,” said Timmins. “My mother is actively involved in the business. From her personal experience, she felt there was a complete lack of bike shops owned by women for women.” His father provided advice around proper importing, customs, and duties procedures. And his two brothers bring their own set of skills: one is a Chartered Accountant, and assists with the books, while the other has barista and mechanical experience, and has been known to get behind the counter and get his hands dirty.
To say the community has been supportive of his venture would be an understatement. “This used to be a massage parlor, and not the kind you’d send your mom to,” Timmins explained. “There’s an elderly couple who walk by every day on their way to Atwater Market, and they make a point of knocking on the window and waving.” At the end of each school day, local kids will drop by to fill up their tires, or to lift or lower their saddles if they’ve been sharing their bike with a sibling. “We’ve met so many great families who love the variety of cargo bikes we rent and sell, and that has really affirmed our commitment to spread the word about them.”
When it came to selecting the brands he would sell, the strategy was a simple one. “Basically, we just chose bicycles that we love,” said Timmins. “Machines that will last a lifetime, and then can be passed onto the next generation.” Which is why you will only find the best of the best here: Gazelle, Creme, Vanmoof, Metrofiets, Bullitt, and trioBike. At first glance, the price tags appear steep, but potential customers are beginning to understand the value of purchasing a fully equipped bike (including lights, fenders, skirt guard, chainguard, basket/ rack, and internal components) with minimal long-run maintenance and proven durability. And business is booming, with Timmins having a difficult time keeping many brands in stock.
Fortunately, Timmins’ mission to inspire a slower, simpler, more civilized bicycle culture extends far beyond the island of Montreal. He recently re-branded and re-launched his website (velolifestyle.com), in order to showcase and sell his brands to the rest of the continent. He is also the exclusive Canadian distributor of both Creme and Bullitt, and the North American distributor of trioBike. He sees the cargo bike market as one area that is growing exponentially – as more and more people discover them for both personal and business use. One thing is certain: for Allo Velo, the sky is truly the limit, and I, for one, can’t wait to see how high it will fly.
Chris Bruntlett is the co-founder of Modacity, a multi-service consultancy focused on inspiring healthier, happier, simpler forms of urban mobility through words, photography, and film. You can find Chris on Twitter: @modacitylife