Depending on whom you ask, it may seem odd for a business with bicycles in its name to be known for their craft coffee. Or, really, it might just make perfect sense. In 2012, after a stint establishing a hand-crafted bicycle company in Queens, New York, fifth-generation-Chicagoan Michael Salvatore moved back to his roots and became one half of the Heritage Family Company. Michael and his wife, Melissa, have opened three shops in Chicago, two of them focused on coffee and bikes: Heritage General Store and Heritage Outpost. The third, Heritage Littles, is an adorable children’s-goods business, and home to Melissa’s family photo studio.
Their flagship space is the General Store, located in the Lakeview neighborhood on Chicago’s affluent North Side. A chance drive down Lincoln Avenue brought the boarded-up and for-rent building to Michael’s attention. Peering through a gap in the window he swooned over the wooden floors, crown molding, and exposed beams of the building, built in 1901. The initial costs covered by bikes, Heritage rented out the retail ground floor, and its basement, establishing their first brick-and-mortar.
A family-oriented and underserved part of town, Lakeview wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice for Heritage. But traditional areas like Bucktown, Wicker Park, and even Southport Corridor are saturated, and the stretch of land south of Belmont, where Heritage settled, had been lacking a community space. Even now, take out Heritage General Store and there would be only one local coffee (and tea) shop in the square mile centered on its current location. Add in the big chains and you’ll still only have three shops within that area.
Heritage’s community-first thinking finds physical representation in the large reclaimed-wood tables, built by hand by the Salvatores. Between those, the banquette corners, and along-the-wall bar stools, patrons are meant to get close and spark conversation. General Store manages to feel airy, open, theatrically lit, and spacious, all while having an exposed bike shop plus nick-nacks like family heirlooms, gramophones, pendant theater lights, and an Underwood Typewriter in every nook.
Here they treat both coffee and bikes with passion and care, but as wholly separate entities. Says Michael, “It’s a delicate dance, for both sides on their own.” In other words, don’t expect the mechanic to be making your macchiato, but feel free to look forward to plenty of local sourcing and strong relationships. After all, Heritage Bicycles was the first to start manufacturing bikes within the Chicago city limits since Schwinn shut its doors in 1982.
In that same spirit, Heritage has paired up with Intelligentsia to create their premier roasts while testing the Heritage brand. Staple foods are provided by Southport Grocery, such as blueberry-cornbread muffins and an array of quiches. Behind the large polished bar, you’ll hear the Mazzer grinder whirring and humming, and see a sharp-looking brand new La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine. They’ve employed a Bunn Coffee Grinder, FETCO Extractor brewer, and Zojirushi Air Pots for their batch-brew filter coffee surface, buttressed by a Hario-enabled slow bar with rotating offerings. Completing their portfolio is a cold-brewed coffee service, with custom-built brewing barrels and kegerators in their basement.
And this is just the General Store. Located in Uptown, Chicago, is the Heritage Outpost. It’s a new venture, funded by its symbiotic relationship as the front lobby for the No. 1325 Wilson apartments, owned by Flats Chicago. Having just opened last November, the Outpost sets to explore the purely coffee side of Heritage, with cuppings and events held regularly. As Michael Salvatore tells me, “That space is just beginning to create itself.”
You could say the same for the Heritage brand, with expansion plans on the horizon for a shop in Nashville later this year. Whether you’re riding in on one of Heritage’s custom-built bikes for two or a dumpy old Schwinn, Heritage has created an approachable and bright environment with roots in both crafts, and without pretension.
Adam Arcus is a journalist and photographer based in Chicago. This is his first feature for Sprudge.com.