Utility Bicycle Works at 228 Wall St. is a very nice yet low-key bike shop I discovered recently. As the place is a relatively new but already a pretty popular destination for word-on-the-street types, I thought it would be cool to stop in and get to know Bryan Richardson better.
Richardson can often be found there helping customers or having a conversation with people stopping in to say hello. He also has been throwing semi-casual concerts with local charm out of the space, a pleasant surprise I happened upon one night when I was jogging Uptown. Also worth mentioning is that the shop has some really cool inventory if you go for stylish-but-functional machines. Check them out at Utilitybicycleworks.com or stop by the store yourselves.
Morgan Y. Evans: First things first, how did you get into bicycles?
Bryan Richardson: I started messing around with bikes in my adult life when I was probably 19 or 20. I rode them as a kid a little bit but for whatever reason I wasn’t crazy about them. When I was older I got my first adult bike ’cause I was hanging out with some people that said, “Dude, go get one and then you can ride with us.” I was intrigued and quickly thought certain things would be better if they were different.
You mean you already wanted to trick it out?
Pretty much, yeah.
Shortly after that I got four or five bikes from Craigslist and started taking them apart and cleaning them really well. I didn’t have any tools to re-assemble them, really. One by one I started buying bike-specific tools and here we are.
Now it turned into a life.
Totally an obsession. Forever tweaking and comparing. I think I developed really particular likes and dislikes early on, which led me into a pretty focused theme I have here. It’s relatively simple. I like to incorporate all rider types into the business. That means it is super-inclusive. Anybody who rides can come in here for something. Service or questions. I really like to emphasize a vintage aesthetic but hyper-practicality in riding. I don’t believe bikes are a toy. I think they can be ridden recreationally but they are also incredibly functional. Commuter bikes, people that want to ride bikes to work or go on tours or make use of the bikes as a vehicle …
Well, it’s great for the environment.
Absolutely. Drivers will get used to it if there are more bikes on the road. It’s gonna be hard I think universally, but we need to create a language everyone understands.
(laughing) Other than drivers giving the finger out the window.
Yeah. It’s kind of hard. Unless there is an easy no-brainer language between bicyclists and cars, it isn’t easy. There are a lot of one-ways in Kingston. Not everyone knows the rules of the road. You benefit sometimes in having a background in driving a car, but not everybody does. Certain hand signals, not everyone knows. I don’t think drivers understand a lot of those. Making it as obvious as possible what you intend to do, be goofy about it and put your arm out as far as possible if you intend to turn left … that can help. That way there is less opportunity for confusion. Put yourself in traffic where the cars are. It’s counterintuitive but if they like it or not nobody is looking for you so you have to be where they will see you.
How long have you been around here?
Probably a total of about 13 years. I moved to New Paltz first. I was playing music in New Paltz and in 2013 I was working in a bike shop in Beacon. I grew up in Syracuse originally and was in a band with two members who decided to go to SUNY New Paltz. To continue the band I moved down.
I know you have music outside the shop sometimes, also. I walked by one night and saw a chill gathering with acoustic players and a small crowd and it was nice to stumble across on my walk.
I thought it might be sweet. Singer-songwriter, low-key jazzy stuff. It’s a small space so we can’t have like death metal and stuff but I wanted to utilize the space and add more value to the roles of this particular shop. I cross-post on Instagram and Facebook. There have been three shows so far. I hope to do one a month after the heat breaks.
Can you repeat what you told me yesterday about the historical aspects of the building?
I don’t know the exact dates but the shop part of the building was a bunch of things in the past. A funeral home, a plumbing supply place. Dogs are drawn in like clockwork. It’s really strange. Maybe they sense something we don’t. They always are walking by then sniff around.
Even though it looks really clean. You wouldn’t think,”Oh, there is some raccoon scent.”
I don’t have, like, chicken wings in here. They always do that and jump up the steps. So I thought that was kind of spooky. The funeral home was years ago, though. The landlord has a really high level of respect for the area and the vintage of the building and neighborhood. The work that went into the space pays respect to that with simplicity, the giant front window and that was fairly easy to match with my affinity for vintage bikes.