May 12, 2020
Last week, Let’s Detroit caught up with Zak Pashak, owner and president of Detroit Bikes. After seeing an unprecedented increase in sales in recent months, we discussed the impact that Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order has had on business, and long term outcomes Zak hopes to see not only for Detroit Bikes but for the region as a whole.
Let’s Detroit: Tell us a little bit about the company.
Zak: Detroit Bikes owns and operates the largest bicycle frame factory in America. We make bikes under our own brand and we also make bikes for other brands. We have a retail store in downtown Detroit and our factory is on the far west side of the city.
LD: So, bike frames are made here in the city?
Z: For some of our bikes and some of our customers’ bikes. [For] some customers we make frames, some we do assembly contracts, we have a variety of different customers. Then, for our own branded bikes, all of our bikes are assembled here in Detroit and have wheels that are built here, and then our USC bikes have frames that we manufacture in our building.
LD: How did you get into the space?
Z: For me personally, my background was in municipal politics and trying to understand urban transportation policy, and how that impacted daily life for people. I had the sense that we had maybe over-weighted society toward cars and car use, and that that made cities not quite as fun to live in as they could be if we had a little bit better balance. I’m all about transportation alternatives, urban transportation alternatives, future mobility stuff, thinking about new ways for people to get around. Bikes are pretty interesting, because it’s, I think, the future of urban mobility in a lot of ways, but it’s also an old technology.
LD: You consider bikes to be the future of transportation, how do you see the culture of transportation in Detroit changing?
Z: Detroit has really good urban planning. We’ve had a really good urban planning department and they’ve made great strides toward getting the way people are reconceiving cities. A big part of that is transportation policy. We’re doing a really good job in this city in terms of facilitating alternative ways to get around.
LD: We’re seeing a lot of people picking up cycling during this moment. Do you have an insight into why you think that is? Detroit Bikes reportedly saw a pretty large increase in sales, correct?
Z: Yeah, 650% over last April [this April versus last April] which is nuts. I think that people are stressed out and they’re cooped up at home, and bikes are just comforting. They’re also fun and relaxing and they give you some exercise and fresh air.
LD: Is that growth nationally?
Z: Mostly nationally, some international. We’ve seen bike orders all across the country, it’s been pretty astounding.
LD: What has it been like to make the bikes and also ship them out with the increased demand? Has that changed your business at all?
Z: We’re definitely running out of stock and the staff is stressed out trying to keep up and keep pace. But I think they’re also pretty happy to see the company be successful. I mean, these are people who have stuck with the company for a long time and so although it’s personally stressful, I think it’s also ultimately pretty satisfying to know people are paying attention to what we make here.
Are you guys working on moving into electric bikes as well?
Z: Yeah, we’ve got an e-bike coming out later this month, hopefully, knock on wood. We’d be doing assembly and wheel building, and shipping across the country.
LD: Lastly, why Detroit? What about the city made sense to do business here?
Z: Detroit has been a great city for me to live in – I’ve been here for 10 years now. It’s a city that has offered a lot to me. I’m grateful for the city, the people who live here and the warm welcome I received when I moved. Especially now its great with the company and the broad reception we have here locally, I think people are proud that this company is a part of the city, and nothing could feel better than that.