The Halcyon Bike Shop of 12th South, clad in red-rusted panels and guarded at the entrance by two gilded lions, holds a bounty of cycling treasures.
The beloved bicycle shop with bikes both new and used, has become a beloved haven for cyclists of all creeds. Orphaned bicycles find refuge here and bikers come to talk shop, get their bike fixed, then get back on the road. With doors swung wide open on this bustling artery into the heart of Nashville, Halcyon invites passerby with an casual warmth.
Stepping into the shop, a stunning array of bikes lining every inch of the wall space comes into view. Nearly a hundred bikes of all shades protrude from the walls and dangle in the window. Bike frames affixed to the ceiling refract the warm rays of the setting sun and neon water bottle cages dangle like ornaments.
On the lofted bike workshop, the two in-house mechanics, Noel Richards and Dan Allen, tune up bikes, a manual process that seems to take an adept hand and knowledge of many tools.
Richards, wearing an emerald green beanie, long black apron and worn, brown leather boots tweaks the small metal bits of a bike’s wheel.
He loses his grip on one tiny part and it rolls out of view. He crouches down under a work desk to fid Bean, the shop’s house pup, cuddled up in a messy bed of linens.
Bean’s an unlikely mix of pit bull and dachshund, stocky in the legs yet stunted in height and low to the ground. He looks like a big brown bean.
“He needs a little red flag or something, because he runs across the street all the time,” Richards says with a laugh. Bean looks up with guilt in his eyes then curls back up in his bed.
The shop’s owner, Andrew Parker, emerges from the back room and rubs his hands coated in black grease. Parker wears a black apron similar to that of his mechanics, but his features an intricately embroidered patch with a roaring white tiger.
Parker and his family moved to Nashville in 1996 from Akron, Ohio when his father decided to establish a professional soccer team called the Nashville Metros. However, the fans never showed up for games and the mission disintegrated.
A hope for Nashville brought the Parker family to the city but the love for the city kept them around, allowing for new dreams to flourish, namely, The Halcyon Bike Shop.
“I had been into bikes long before we moved here…It’s been every bit as much physical, mental therapy as it is anything else, and that’s where it all kind of stemmed from,” Parker says.
Parker’s passion for biking lead to the shop’s inception and has seemed to attract many bikers of similar sensibilities here in Nashville.
Halcyon Bike Shop has become a haven for bike enthusiasts of all stripes: mountain-bikers, couriers, road racers, cross-country racers and commuters alike. Murmurs of the elusive and intensely private bike clubs of Nashville even carry through the shop.
Parker appreciates the diverse host of cyclists who course through the business he built seven years ago. A stroke of luck during one of the worst economic downturns in American history gave Parker the funding he needed to turn his passion for cycling into a thriving business.
“My bank manager told me that if I would have applied for my loans a week later than I had he would’ve denied me,” he says with a tone of relief as he scratches the back of his head, “I feel a little bit, no, a lot lucky in that regard.”
If you look up the definition for “Halcyon” you’ll find that the word stands for “A denotation of a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.” The definition proves whimsical and lovely, but the shop actually got its name from the street the building sits on, Halcyon Avenue.
When I mention this dictionary definition for his bike shop, he smiles and says, “Like the halcyon days, the golden days. My grandfather actually says that.”
Halcyon Bike Shop’s identity seems marked by several instances of synchronicity: the stroke of luck that funded the business as well as the charitable endeavors that followed.
“I was kind of teetering back and forth between going for-profit and non-profit and I kind of struggled with that. I reached out to a couple of people and then I met Dan.”
He’s referring to Dan Furbish of The Oasis Center. In 2009, Furbish and Parker partnered to form The Oasis Bike Workshop, a year-round earn-a-bike program that empowers Nashville’s youth with education on bike building, maintenance and safety. Five hundred students have graduated from the program since its creation.
“I’m also the coach along with Dan over at Oasis Center and we coach some boys over there. We do a mountain bike team with them. It’s pretty fun and rewarding…we’re very, very proud of it,” Parker says, beaming.
With Halcyon, Parker created a space for bikers to learn, talk shop and fix up bikes, but he’s also developed some formidable racing teams with a camaraderie that’s hard to match.
Tacked onto the Halcyon walls, several photographs feature the team together atop mountains, in the mud and on the road.
Halcyon’s cross country and road racing teams convey a strong comradeship, participating in races across the city and producing several champions, whose photographs frequently pop up on the shop’s Instagram.
The strong bonds cemented at Halcyon Bike Shop happen because of the inclusive environment Parker strived to create. The shop includes workspaces not only for his employees, but for members of the community as well.
Venturing out to the backyard, you’ll happen upon the community workbench, a place where Parker has recruited several of his current employees, including Dan Allen.
The workbench also serves as an educational center for anyone who wants to learn how to tune up a bike on his own.
“We kind of look at this as more of like an outdoor classroom. We really like to educate people if they do want to learn how to work on their own bikes,” Parker says.
The success of the workbench seems like a direct result of Halcyon’s literal, open-door policy. This allows bikers of all levels to come into the shop, explore and as Parker hopes, “get back on the road.”
Sinclair Dotson, a messenger from Rush Bicycle Messengers—a local bike courier service—wheels in. Dotson is a good example of how Nashville’s biking community transformed since Halcyon opened up.
A bike courier might’ve been a rare sight in the early 90s when Parker moved to Nashville—motorists and cyclists didn’t quite get along—but now bicycle couriers are just another facet of a new, more bicycle-friendly city.
Dotson came to the shop in the middle of an exhausting double shift to pick up her Halcyon Racing Team jersey; she just recently joined the squad. Dotson stops at Halcyon to pick up her new uniform, chat with some friends and then wheels back onto the road to make another delivery.
“Motorists out there are finally coming to terms with us being out on the road,” Parker said.
As Nashville’s population swells and traffic worsens, biking in the city seems more common than ever before. Parker seems glad for that.
“Of course there are more and more people moving to Nashville and because of that more and more commuters, but it’s really the right people being put into the right place in the city. I think that’s—more than anything—the biggest improvement,” he says.
Dusk begins to set in on the little bike shop and the hum of passing cars becomes more muffled and intermittent. At this point, Parker’s strayed from his work long enough and needs to finish tuning some bikes before the shop closes at 6 p.m.
Before he leaves he says, “Please, make yourself at home.”
Home is precisely the word to describe the Halcyon Bike Shop: a temporary home to bikes, a treasured home to cyclists and anyone who steps through those wide open doors. A place to fix up a bike with friends, run a race and share the love of the sport.
Halcyon encapsulates an idyllic and peaceful experience for cyclists enjoying the sport in Nashville and it’s housed in a humble, red-rusted building on 12th South.