Emeryville is a dense 1.2 square mile city with a cherished greenway and well-trafficked bike boulevard that runs the length of the city. We even recently received a silver designation by The League of American Bicyclists as a “Bicycle Friendly Community”. Despite these amenities, our city mysteriously does not have its own bike shop within city limits.
That is about to change as ‘Color Wheel’ (FKA Color Wheel Oakland) opened its doors to the public today as part of a News Years Day Open House event. Color Wheel is a venture of husband & wife tandem Monica Hamlett and Omar Sison that started as a mobile ‘pop-up’ bike shop in West Oakland.
Monica, originally from Kalamazoo, MI and Omar, from Concord and a Cal grad, met about four years ago while Omar was working as a mechanic at Manifesto in North Oakland. Monica was training for a ride and was suffering from some hip pain. She requested a personal bike fit from Omar and they soon began dating. “We’re both terrible flirts,” they admitted. “It took a while to start dating because neither of us were sure if the other was interested.” Two years later, they’re now a family of four with an eight month old daughter Naomi and dog Toast.
The duo have almost Jobs/Wozniak complimentary talents. Monica brings a background in supply chain social responsibility and is handling all the marketing, bookkeeping and account management. Her handling the ‘business end’ of things gives Omar the opportunity to retreat to his passion of fixing and optimizing bikes.
Their pop up idea started in front of Kilovolt Coffee on Mandela close to their West Oakland home. The novelty of their business (and perhaps their adorable family) began to draw attention by the local media including Hoodline and The East Bay Times. Omar’s reputation and experience as a quality mechanic helped them build a small but loyal following.
They slowly branched out to larger corporate clients including Emeryville businesses SCS Global Services and Royal Coffee. A chance encounter with Clif Bar art curator and avid bike commuter Jeff Hantman helped them get their foot in the door at Clif Bar. They began offering weekly pop-ups to employees at their lot at 65th & Hollis. Clif Bar has a well established reputation of supporting cycling causes and being a workplace that provides incentives to encourage bike commuting.
As their daughter started becoming more mobile, it made the pop-up/mobile idea tougher and they started to consider pursuing the live/work model. Omar and Monica initially signed a lease at a live/work space in South Berkeley but things soon became complicated. Their landlords began impeding their planned tenant improvement renovations putting their plans in limbo. It became apparent that they wanted them out which put them in a desperate situation. “I’ve never felt so close to being homeless,” Monica says now with relief.
A friend alerted them to the live-work space on 61st near Doyle-Hollis Park that is also home to INNA Jam and Canine Boardwalk. Monica was immediately smitten with the aesthetics of the space and proximity to family friendly amenities. Omar was a bit more discerning and needed to visualize the functionality of the space for bike repair. After touring the space together, he determined he could make it work and they moved in a week later. “When the dust settled, we looked up and said ‘this is amazing! A beautiful park with a lot of young families like ours and we’re surrounded by other successful businesses.”
“Emeryville is a great location for us. It’s busy and dense — but much fewer services than Oakland for whatever reason,” noted Monica. “We think it’s dense with the kind of people who appreciate what we do,” added Omar. “We like this location because, many of the folks that passed us on the Mandela bike corridor are now passing us here on the Greenway!”
Not only will Color Wheel provide maintenance and builds, they also do custom paint jobs. Find out more about their rates and contact them through colorwheelbicycle.com and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.