If you love bikes, brews, yummy food, and a warm, collaborative community, Downshift Handcrafted Bikes and Brews is the place for you.
Their goal is to “bring bikes to life” for the people of Roanoke, Virginia, by offering expert advice, bike mechanics, and gear to help riders reach their full biking potential. With their selection of food, beer, coffee, and even kombucha, Downshift has successfully created a great space to hang out and talk about bikes. Even though this bike/coffee shop offers a unique set of services, it focuses primarily on the community they’ve created. This especially shows through their Cranksgiving food drives and their uplifting program, Community Upshift.
Community Upshift’s goal is to take donated bicycles from the community members and restore them to good working condition. They then take the donated bikes and give them to people who need the bicycle for transportation to work. These folks are either self-identified and have heard about the program through word of mouth or have been referred by a local agency.
We asked the guy who started it all, Stephen Ambruzs, the owner of Downshift, some questions about how Community Upshift came to be.
BRO: What inspired the idea?
Ambruzs: As a business, it is important for us to give back to the community that does so much for us. We started the program immediately upon opening the shop as a way to help “bring bikes to life” which is part of our mission. As a bike shop downtown, we see folks trying their best to hold down a job but lack the proper resources in order to do so successfully. By helping them out with a form of reliable transportation, we knew we could make a difference.
BRO: What has been a highlight so far?
Ambruzs: We have had donation recipients come back and give us a personal heartfelt thank you, and a report on how they are grateful for our donation. This is always a great feeling for us!
BRO: What has been the biggest challenge?
Ambruzs: One of the challenges is ensuring recipients have additional equipment that makes biking as transportation more possible. This includes a lock, helmet, and lights. We wish we could do more to provide these resources as well as the bike but it can be difficult for us.
BRO: What does the future look like?
Ambruzs: We would love to work directly with agencies to identify community members in need as well as secure grants to fund additional components of the program such as the safety accessories and storage.
We encourage community members of the Roanoke region to contact us about any bikes they wish to donate.
Learn more and get involved with Downshift’s Community Upshift here: https://www.downshiftbikes.com/community/
All photos courtesy of Downshift Owner Stephen Ambruzs.