Wheel House: West Philly bike shop expands to a second location

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Firehouse Bicycles, which is co-owned by Monica Pasquinelli, above, and Sam Davis, primarily sells refurbished bikes—keeping them out of landfills.Every neighborhood deserves a great bike shop—one with grimy, committed mechanics, affordable new and used bikes, and fast service. Firehouse Bicycles, at 50th Street and Baltimore Avenue, has been West Philly’s bike shop since 2001. Monica Pasquinelli, who now co-owns the business with Sam Davis, says it began pretty organically. “We were first,” she says, “having some sales out of here that we’d flyer for, and as people started to realize there were bikes up here, it slowly started to blossom into a real bike shop.” 

Though they sell some new bikes, 75 percent of Firehouse's stock is refurbished, keeping older bikes out of landfills and making bikes more affordable for those who can’t spend thousands on a brand new bike. They also keep tools and a pump on their porch, so neighbors can make repairs. “We believe in having stuff available and people being empowered,” Pasquinelli says.

In 2012, Firehouse added a second location, buying Wolf Cycles (formerly Wolff Cycles), Philadelphia’s longest-operating bike shop, when the previous owner—only the second owner since the shop opened in the 1930s—decided to retire. Pasquinelli says the idea of buying the shop seemed like fun, but it has been a challenge. Located at 43rd Street and Lancaster Avenue , Wolff Cycles is well known by the neighborhood’s older generations, but Pasquinelli and company are working to develop a younger customer base, establishing a website and social media presence, selling new bikes in popular brands, repairing and selling skateboards, and making the building’s second floor available as a community space, hosting shows and plays. Still, Pasquinelli says it’s the history and legacy of Wolf Cycles that convinced them to take over the business. 

Curtis Wahlgren of Narberth purchased his first good road bike at Wolff Cycles in the late ’70s. “They gave me a good price, and it was an excellent bike,” he says. He shops at the new Wolf Cycles because the staff is knowledgeable, does good work and cares about more than just making a profit. “They don’t push people to buy things. It’s just kind of an old-fashioned bicycle store where it’s really enjoyable to hang out and talk with the employees,” he says.

“Almost everyone who walks through the door there says, ‘I got my first bike here!’” Pasquinelli says. “Moments like that are what make us excited. It’s cool to be carrying the torch.”

Story byEmily Kovach and photo byNeal Santos.

This story originally appeared in 

Beyond Big Business

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, found in Issue #58.