Hi. My name is Justyna. Together with Chris, my husband, we own Rapid Transit Cycleshop. We live in Chicago in a modest house with our two kids and four cats.
My husband grew up on the south side. His family was active in First Presbyterian Church, and experienced first-hand the effects that redlining had in the early 70's on communities, neighborhoods and relationships. Transplants from the real south-side, they couch-surfed for a while in Hyde Park before finding a more or less permanent perch.
I am a first-generation immigrant from Poland. My grandparents cleaned and served meals at Chicago's Catholic churches. My dad delivered bakery goods to Polish delis at 4 am. My mom worked as a live-in nanny. We basement-surfed until my parents found more solid employment and bought a bungalow in Portage Park.
Chris rode his bike for a living and I was in graduate school when we met at a local watering hole. Our first good idea was to get married, and, a couple of years after that, to start a business. A bicycle store with a mission of promoting alternative transportation in Chicago.
As it says on our website, we wanted to create a store that would invite, not intimidate the beginner, listen, not preach to the curious, and salute, not marginalize the commuter. With this in mind, in March of 1994 we threw open our doors at 1900 W. North Avenue, and waited for the customers to pour in.
And they did. Slowly at first, but the pace picked up, and nearly everyone that came in thanked us for opening a local store in their neighborhood. Pretty soon, we found ourselves in need of extra help, so we hired our first employee. And then another. And another. Over the years, we have provided both seasonal and long-term employment to Chicagoans from all walks of life. Our youngest employee was still in high school. Our oldest qualifies for an AARP card. We have employed people who were students, single moms, addicts, veterans, suburbanites, immigrants; some have gone on to become PhD's, police officers, artists, musicians, account executives, frame builders; quite a few have used the experience of working at our shop to leverage a job with Chicago-based Sram Corporation; some even, we humbly concede, went on to start other local bicycle shops, hoping -- no doubt -- to do what we do, only better.
These people did not come to work here for the fabulous riches. No one I know ever got rich working in a bike store. They came, because they loved bikes and they wanted to help others who shared that love. They came, because they liked the way we interacted with you, our customers.
The customers, who always have been at the heart of it all. In the eighteen years since opening Rapid Transit, we've had the privilege of interacting with thousands of customers, and most of you have something in common: a dream of independent travel. A vision of yourself doing something extraordinary. Something that maybe others thought could not be done. You came to trust us to understand and validate your dream, help you give it shape, and make it real.
Through helping you reach your dreams, we have lived ours: to be self-employed, autonomous, doing what we believed in and rooted in the community. By building Rapid Transit, we have built our livelihood, maintaining our home and garden, raising our kids. We have felt keenly the peaks and valleys of the national economy, eagerly reaping the fruits of the good years, and struggling, worrying and losing sleep through the recent, leaner months.
Hard times or not, we cannot imagine ever doing anything else, or a life without Rapid Transit. We are thankful for all that we have experienced through the shop. We are grateful for the group of dedicated people who come to work here every day, some for almost two decades now. We are grateful for the trust and loyalty that you, our customers, bestowed in us. We appreciate not only your business, but also your stories and advice, and you continue to be our main source of inspiration.