Back in February, the Bicycle Kitchen announced it was seeking a new home after outgrowing its Hel-Mel location after some seven years (In fact, it was both Bicycle Kitchen cook Somerset Waters and I who coined the name “Hel-Mel” in the Fall of 2005 after we did some brainstorming for identifying that part of the community). The Kitchen, which originated from an actual kitchen at the Los Angeles Eco Village just south of East Hollywood, was no stranger to moving, and growing, so it was time to seek a new locale after its lease ran out in May 2012.
Fortunately, they didn’t go far, and there would be no new lease either — the non-profit bicycle repair education collective, with the help of some grants, donations and a fundraising drive, bought their very own building — also here in East Hollywood — just a mile and a half away at 4429 Fountain Avenue, just east of Virgil. They took over a Filipino bakery called Alice’s Sapin-Sapin (which is a layered Philippine dessert cake made out of rice flour and coconut), which was actually more prominent and successful at its own former location on Sunset and Kingsley than here.
I decided to ride here and check it out on Wednesday evening after watching Game 4 of the Kings’ Stanley Cup match at a sports bar in Los Feliz. They had actually been phasing in operations this week, with an official Grand Re-Opening event later this Summer.
First impression: Yes, it’s bigger. Obviously not airplane-hangar big, but definitely not the cramped space it once was. The four bike stands, which hold two bicycles each, have been moved here and are now arranged in parallel. There is actually space for a fifth bike stand, which will be arriving soon.
One of the cooks recognized me as a regular and gave me a quick tour. He showed me the wheel closet, where bike wheels can now be stored at a more accessible height (and more of them can be stored as well):
And just outside the wheel closet are the parts drawers and cabinets:
And if there’s a waiting list, there’s an actual lounge area you can chill and hang out in:
And the main desk is in a centrally-located counter area:
There’s also space in the front for the temporary storage of these things called automobiles:
As with any move to a new location, there is a change in culture; gone are the ice cream runs at Scoops or take out pizzas from Pizza Paul. Enter cheesesteak runs from Boos Philly Steaks across Virgil and take out Peruvian food from Don Felix next door. It’s also closer to the bars and cafes of Silver Lake, and Tang’s Donut, the popular gathering spot for the high-octane Wolfpack Hustle mass bicycle rides, is just yards away.
Meanwhile, back in Hel-Mel, the Orange 20 Bicycles shop remains the lone holdout from the “Bicycle District,” which one Hel-Mel business proprietor said, tongue-in-cheek, is now the “Hair Salon/Eyeglass Lens/Medical Marijuana District.”
But why should we have just one “Bicycle District” in town when we should be having many “bicycle districts” all over Los Angeles?
Most of all, the best of luck to the Bicycle Kitchen on its brand new building, and I look forward to its official grand re-opening soon!