Sweet on chocolate? There’s a shop in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood you might want to check out — a bikeshop. Gregory Crichlow (Arch’95) has transformed a former drug den into a boutique bike shop that also sells artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate.
The story dates to 2009, when the Great Recession brought the American economy to its knees, dramatically slowing work for Crichlow, then employed as an architect.
“I had to make a decision to use a different skill set,” he said.
By 2011, the wheels were in motion to turn a 400-square-foot Downing Street space with no roof into a place where locals could come for bike repairs and frame fabrication, and also chocolate.
He’d often noticed the building while biking to his architecture job nearby. It became Chocolate Spokes, the subject of a recent short film of that name.
Opening the business wasn’t the first major gear shift for Crichlow, the rare cycleshop owner who wears a dress shirt and bow tie on the job.
After finishing high school in Aurora, where he played ice hockey, he’d lived with his grandmother in New York for a year. There an interest in architecture gathered momentum. Dually inspired by the city’s aesthetics and by Olympic speed skater Eric Heiden, a multi-gold-medalist who reinvented himself as a pro cyclist, Crichlow came back to Colorado to study architecture at CU and joined the cycling team.
“My first ride was a real eye-opener,” he said. “I was dropped by the group and left somewhere near Lyons — I realized there was a lot more to the sport than just getting on a bike and going.”
He eventually left competitive cycling to focus on architecture and attend graduate school at the University of Illinois. But Crichlow has remained committed to life on two wheels: He doesn’t own a car and cycles everywhere, as do his two children, ages 13 and 9.
And, of course, he owns a bike shop that doubles as a neighborhood gathering place.
“My hope is that we’re creating a space where everyone feels welcome and respected as our immediate neighborhood context evolves,” he said.
The bow tie is a nod to Crichlow’s grandfather, who wore them also, and to his own attitude toward work.
“I listen to clients and make their wants and needs come to a tangible reality,” he said. “My appearance is a refection of how seriously I take this.”
Crichlow decided to sell chocolate bars alongside handlebars partly because of his own fondness for them, and because he believes fine chocolate reflects the studio’s attention to craftsmanship.
“People come in just to buy chocolate — nothing to do with bikes,” he said.
Now, that’s sweet.
Photo courtesy Gregory Crichlow