On November 2014, on Fourth Place in Brooklyn, New York, a new meeting place for cyclists appeared. The shop is called The Maglia Rosa and we talked to owner Manuel Mainard to find out how he pulled it off.
First off , where did you get that Faema espresso machine and how much did you pay for it? I bought the E61 used from an old café that was closing its doors about an hour outside of Milan for about 2,000 euros. I had it sitting in my mother’s garage in Milan…until I shipped it to NYC, which was expensive! It was worth it though; the machine has the patina and the functionality of an old classic car.
Tell us how the shop began; has it always been your dream? I was a producer for commercial and editorial fashion photography for almost 15 years and a photographer before that. Cycling had been a long-time love affair that actually kept me sane throughout those years. In 2010, I had a really bad motorcycle accident that forced me to stop, sit down and actually think about my life. That was the time I started developing the idea of The Maglia Rosa NYC as a new venture and labor of love. By summer 2013 I had quit my job and incorporated MR NYC.
Do you work crazy hours? Until April-May, it was every day at least 12 hours. I needed to put in place the structure and the logistics [for] the café and bike shop—it’s two businesses in one and there’s a lot going on. I finally found a team of baristas…who are able to release me from the morning openings (we are open by 7:30), so I could start riding again. I still work seven days a week, but having a few hours off to deal with emails/billing and a few laps in Prospect Park, makes me feel like I might be able to have a life again. And I just signed up for the NYC Marathon…to make sure I don’t get bored.
You built a meeting place for cyclists? Yes, that was one of the main ideas. I’ve been to a ton of bike shops in the country and abroad and never found a place (well there are actually a couple now) that will allow cyclist to sit, talk, look at bikes, look at races or soccer games, grab a coffee, a panino or a beer—yes, we got our license in last week! The café inspiration comes from my childhood in Italy. I’ve tried to recreate a ’70s mood when I remembered the cafés (called bars in Italy) where old folks were sitting, chatting about soccer/food/politics, playing cards and chain smoking.
Tell us about the bikes you sell? This is another key element to the original idea—handmade bikes and no mass-produced frames. Of course it comes from my personal love, but also because there are so many shops out there that do sell the same brands and honestly I don’t think the market needs another one. Personally, I love titanium and that is clearly reflected in the brands I represent, but of course I have steel and one carbon maker. I mainly deal with American builders (Seven, Hampsten, No. 22 and Breismeister) and some Italians (Nevi, Zullo, Sarto and Legor)—all brands with history and reliability but all different from their approach and philosophical point of view. All of the bikes/frames in the shop are demos (as waiting time for those frames varies from two to five months) for people to try or simply admire the craftsmanship, as you generally don’t see those bikes new in a shop.
Your favorite part of opening the shop? Well, definitely the planning and creation of the space…the research of the materials and furniture and of course the buying and building of every single frame to the actual bike. I love to design bikes and see how they turn out…from the scrappiest old rusty frames to the most modern crazy-shaped, carbon-tubed TT bike…we service and repair all of them without discrimination. My head mechanic Santiago has a lot of experience as a mechanic and has probably seen and serviced everything under the sun.