The inspiration behind Izzat Rahman’s vibrant bike shop came soon after his move to the United States from Malaysia.
“I bought a bike when I first moved here from another Malaysian who was selling bikes out of his basement,” said Rahman, a 2011 entrepreneurship and management information systems alumnus who immigrated in 2009. “I decided to do the same thing, but I wanted to take it up a notch.”
In 2012, Rahman opened Kayuh Bicycles and Cafe, a bike retailer and coffee shop on 19th Street and Girard Avenue. It started as a workshop for refurbishing bikes but grew into a cafe a few years later in 2015.
In the front, customers can order coffee, teas, smoothies and sandwiches. In the back, Rahman or another bike mechanic can service bikes on the spot.
“We get people who are into coffee come in and they aren’t really into bikes, or vice versa, but they always appreciate the best of both worlds,” Rahman said.
He added the cafe tries to maintain a social connection with the surrounding Francisville community. Kayuh holds free repair clinics to teach people how to repair their own bikes, which Rahman said is unique for a for-profit business.
Kayuh also hosts open mic nights, organizes weekly group rides for cyclists and is constantly finding new ways to be involved in the surrounding neighborhood.
Malachi Maldonado-Lewis, a Kayuh employee, said he saw firsthand the shop’s connection to the community in his two years working at the cafe.
“My favorite thing is how I’ve gotten to know everyone from the neighborhood,” Maldonado-Lewis said. “There’s a community that the shop has built.”
Victoria Son, who’s a regular customer, has similar observations.
“Since day one, everybody’s been really kind and courteous,” Son said. “They’re very welcoming to anybody who walks in the door, regardless of what they look like or how they dress.”
While Kayuh had steady business in the last few years, Rahman said establishing a customer base wasn’t easy.
“It wasn’t one of those business ideas that was groundbreaking,” he added. “It wasn’t an app or a social networking website. But in my mind, I knew the concept was different and the business model was unique.”
Before the cafe portion opened, Rahman questioned his ability to keep the shop open year-round because of the seasonal nature of biking.
“That’s one of the issues that independent bicycle dealers face,” Rahman said. “Thankfully the cafe has been tremendously helpful for us with being able to sustain employment for our staff.”
Rahman is now interested in delving deeper into the world of coffee and creating a brand for the cafe. Additionally, he said he wants to focus on building a larger online presence for Kayuh.
“To be honest, I was never really into bikes,” Rahman said. “It’s an interest. My passion lies with entrepreneurship.”