Ally Rennell for AIGA LA had a virtual sit-down with Chase and Tami Spenst, the creators of this homespun haven nestled in the Arts District. The Wheelhouse brings avid cyclists, humble explorers, and coffee-lovers together in one homey spot. Chase and Tami’s vision took root in a 3,700 square foot space and features eclectic retail items, a full service department, coffee bar, and café complete with a sun-soaked patio.
Where did you get the idea to blend a coffee shop and a bike shop? When we lived downtown, we began riding our bicycles to get around in place of a car because it was so much easier and, in doing that, we felt like the whole city opened up. Going places became an adventure that we looked forward to instead of something we avoided. Being out of a car, you really get to experience your environment and you discover all the small pockets of life between your destinations that you would miss behind a windshield. We met so many people along the way that were looking for this type of bicycle lifestyle, but didn’t know where to begin and we started to think about how to create a culture of every day bicycle riders in LA. What we came up with was The Wheelhouse- a curated retail store focused on bicycles for every day life and accessories to support your adventures, a friendly and approachable service department to take care of any kind of bicycle and a coffee shop, the perfect community building experience, to connect the cyclist and the non-cyclist in one space.
Which do you love more—bikes or coffee? Oh man, that’s like picking which of your children is your favorite.
What’s the greatest adventure you’ve been on? We went to South Africa for our honeymoon and it was incredible. Epic, really. We haven’t stopped thinking about going back since we got home.
What’s it like being business partners with your life partner? It’s amazing in a special way and it’s also challenging in a special way. You get to share all the wins—big and small—with someone who really understands the significance of them and, in the same way, you can support each other in the losses because you both get it. But you really have to stay conscious of separating your personal relationship and your professional relationship because it can be too easy to bring your work “home” or to bring your personal things to “work” in a way that you wouldn’t if you were “normal” co-workers.
Any advice to budding business owners? Start in a way and at a scale that allows you to be very intentional about everything.
Get sleep and take breaks. Place value on taking care of yourself and your relationships and set protections in place. There may not be a proportionate balance between work and life, but you have to make space for both.
Find and/or create a support system of other business owners. You can encourage each other, inspire, share survival secrets. Most people have co-workers who are in the same battlefield with them and a water cooler to commiserate around. You have to create that.
Any new ventures planned for the future? Always! We actually have five businesses between the two of us right now (Tami: Actor, Designer at Pluck, an interior + event design firm) and Chase (Strategy + Management Consultant) and together we have The Wheelhouse and a (To Be Named) Coffee Design Consulting Company.
Where’s your favorite place to bike in the city and beyond? Going through Downtown and Koreatown is amazing because there is so much history and culture and character compacted together and, on a bicycle, you can see and hear and feel it all. It’s also changing so fast that there’s always something new.
What are your favorite spots downtown? Restaurant? Wood Spoon, Bestia, The Chairman, Grand Central Market
Store? Alchemy Works, Hammer & Spear, Woo, The Last Bookstore
Outdoors? The Sixth Street Viaduct
Ally Rennell is a Brand Writer, poet, choreographer, and beach bum. Check out her work at https://allysoncreative.wordpress.com