Jun 25, 2015
At Work With Alan Gagné
Steven: You have a pretty good set up, how did you get to where you are right now?
Alan: Well the story goes, I had always wanted to go to law school, but before spending hundreds of thousands on a degree, I decided to get a job in the field as a paralegal. Did the whole corporate 9-5 grind and sure it paid well, but it wasn't fulfilling. I had been living in Lakeview at the time and while the shop was under construction, I noticed some Stumptown Coffee and Bowery Lane Bicycles signs in the window. I was pretty familiar with both so I began riding by often and getting to know Mike the owner. Long story short, I left the legal field to become a barista at the newly opening Heritage Bicycles. It was a huge leap of faith for a huge decrease in income but a huge increase in happiness. I've been here since day one and I've worked my way up to bike mechanic, e-commerce, web development, to now my main focus is sales and new business development. We're expanding so you could say I wear many hats, hah.
S: What's your typical day around the shop look like?
A: I get in around 9 o'clock and of course step one: coffee. Working at a coffee shop is pretty awesome because you get to nerd out about coffee from different origins and dialing in the perfect pour over. After that I move into e-mail and do some catching up around the shop until noon. Around then I'll start working on any outbound shipments if we have e-commerce or wholesales going out. Then most of the day I'm working on new business, following up with some of our dealers, setting up bike build appointments, and hanging around the shop until we close up around 8pm.
S: Whoa, you're at the shop all day long?
A: Well mostly all day. But don't get me wrong, I live next door so I can run home to make lunch, use my own bathroom, or maybe run an errand or two. It's the beauty of having a live-work lifestyle. I like to picture this place as my living room so it doesn't really feel like work because I enjoy it so much.
S: If you had to consider this a job, what would be your favorite part of it?
A: I think the social aspects are one of my favorite parts. Living and working in the neighborhood has allowed me to get to know our customer base and I've made a lot of great relationships and friends from it. Since this is a smaller company, there's also a lot of opportunity for growth and development. I've learned so much about what it takes to run a business from the ground up since I've been here.
S: On a more personal note, what have you been listening to lately?
A: I just got really into vinyl so a lot of older stuff. Anything funk, soul, jazz, and reggae records when you can find them. But the youth in me will always be into the punk rock indie scene. If I had to have an absolute all time favorites I think it'd have to be Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (laughs).
S: I know you're a bike guy but if you could have any car, what would it be?
A: Cadillac, hands down. I grew up in Detroit in an auto industry family so I've always had an attachment to the American made. On the opposite spectrum, if you can picture a super old beat up farm truck, that's me. Definitely 1952 Chevy or a Cadillac Eldorado.
S: Do you ever make it out of the city?
A: Not as often as I'd like. In the past 3 years since starting this business, it's taken up a good amount of my time. If I could go somewhere right now though? I'd most likely go to New York, Southern California, or even back to Detroit. There's so much soul and character in Detroit.
S: Living and working in the neighborhood, do you ever feel like you're in a bubble?
A: A little bit sometimes. The beauty is I feel like a lot of it comes to me so often I don't have to venture far to find what I'm looking for. I still get out around the city, but for the most part I'm pretty true to the 60657, hah!
S:Because you live right around the corner from where you work and don't really need to leave the neighborhood for any reason, do you ever venture out on your bike?
A: You're right, I live, work, eat, drink all in this neighborhood, but getting out and riding my bike is definitely my escape. I have seven bikes and a tandem so I definitely try to get out and ride all the time. I've always been into shitty iPhone photography so that gets me out of the neighborhood to explore. Bikes are my key to freedom.
S: You're wearing the Stock denim work shirt right now, awesome! Why do you wear Stock?
A: You know, now that I'm making goods in America I really want to support American made, specifically Chicago made makers. I can't remember my exact introduction to Stock, but regardless it's really supporting that locally made craftsmanship. It's affordable, refined, and different without needing to be extravagant. I come from a mentality of "buy nice or buy twice" so their clothing is not disposable and I feel confident that it's going to last me. They make real "Men's Clothing", not dainty fashion wear. They make that shirt you're going to wear for 10 or so years that weathers over time. The shirt that once you get a hole in it, you patch it up and add even more character to it. They make shit that lasts.
S: What does Chicago mean to you? You've been here for almost a decade now, right?
A: Chicago to me is the Midwest mecca. It's people from all over the world. Mostly from Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and all the surrounding states. It's the big city in the Midwest that draws a lot of young people. I like to call it super college sometimes because it's the place that you either go to for college or after college and you either make it or you don't. There's a lot of opportunity here, which I love. Unlike other big cities, Chicago has that Midwest "nice" mentality. For the most part everyone's approachable and the city is very attainable. I love it here.
S: Thanks, Alan. We love it too.