On a cold December day, Inspire witnessed Firth and Wilson Transport Cycles at work - restoring bicycles, educating customers, and talking shop.
Why do you love being small business owner in Philly?
Victoria Firth: Philly is a small big city. There are a lot of distinct neighborhoods. It’s very accessible for people to ride bikes, and the infrastructure is expanding. As a bike shop, it’s really the perfect city for us. More and more people are moving back into the city, and there is a lot of growth here.
Your shop is a staple in the Fishtown community. Did anything about Fishtown in particular draw you in?
David Wilson: It’s a rapidly growing neighborhood that is going through some big transitions. There are a lot of bike commuters living here. We also knew we needed a warehouse-type space, and Fishtown is known for its large supply of big warehouses.
This space is really amazing. Do you know what was this warehouse before it was Firth and Wilson?
Simon Firth: It has been an elevator factory, an ice cream machine factory, a furniture importer, an antique lighting emporium, and now it’s a bike emporium.
Why is bike riding so essential to a sustainable mindset in a city such as Philadelphia?
Victoria Firth: We’ve always viewed bike riding as a means to get around, and it is, in our opinion, the most sustainable way of getting around the city. Obviously, it reduces your individual carbon footprint, but there is also the idea that it takes one more car off the road each day.
David Wilson: Also, if you think about it, the amount of pavement dedicated to riding bikes is much smaller.
How did Firth and Wilson come together?
David Wilson: We’ve known each other for nearly 15 years. We met back in the day going to bike trade shows. We always thought it would be fun and interesting to own a shop together, and after I returned from the Netherlands and lived for a few years in Philly, everything fell into place.
Simon Firth: Speaking of the Netherlands, they’re planning on banning gas cars by 2025. Even now, every 100 yards there are electric charges for cars.
Interesting! Good for them. Now, can you talk to us about your typical customer?
Simon Firth: Well, we’re a different bike shop than most. We’re transport cycles - we sell and service bikes for people who just want to get around rather than break their latest record. So, we try to cater to those who use their bikes as a tool.
Victoria Firth: We’re a neighborhood bike shop as well as a destination bike shop for those people who are looking for cargo bikes and family bikes. Specifically, we get a lot of young families who are looking for practical solutions so they can get rid of a car. We also see a lot of the “wheelie” kids and teenagers in here.
You construct bikes here as well as sell them?
David Wilson: Yes, we have a frame shop where we make custom bicycles, repair frames, and we just got a $10,000 grant from the Merchants Fund to build seven small cargo bikes.
What are your thoughts on bike share services?
Simon Firth: They’re great. As long as there are more bikes on the road, we’re happy. People get introduced to the bike riding lifestyle on bike shares, and then they often come to us to purchase their own. Indego actually hired us to create a special cargo bike with an electric motor on it for them to do smaller maintenance jobs on their stations and cycles.
Victoria Firth: We first met Inspire at the Philadelphia Bike Expo, and once we actually were able to sit down and listen to what Inspire was all about, it made sense for us to get involved in a local, Philadelphia company.
Visit their shop at:
1105 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125