Monday, November 18, 2013

Rivendell Bike Book & Hatchet - Walnut Creek's Weirdest Store

It says so right on the sign.

A little context: Rivendell Bicycle Works is a unique company, making steel-frame bikes with tender loving care since 1994. Rivendell has always worked on old-fashioned principles of communication and hand-crafting and as such, the owner, Grant Petersen, has been writing his own newsletter since the company formed. If I were to summarize his bicycle philosophy, I would say: ride a bike like when you were a kid. Have fun, be comfortable, ride with friends, put stuff in your bike basket and head out.

Rivendell Bike Book & Hatchet is Rivendell's new store in downtown Walnut Creek that displays their bikes, has a wonderful selection of classic children's literature (including Edward Lear's A Book of Nonsense—a must-have), and hatchets—a wall of them. And you can split some wood at the store so you're assured of buying the right hatchet for your household.

All around the store hang these little signs, made of wood and twine, written with what must be a wood-burning kit, like you got for Christmas in 1974. This sign is in the front window and reads: average daily sales for the first 20 days of operations were, like, about $352...which, of course, isn't exactly sustainable—but, you know, things will, pick up as we get closer to hatchet season—which runs from Thanksgiving to Father's Day, which you know, generally arrives mid-June.

This is probably my favorite store sign of all time. It's so honest and straight-forward and optimistic.

Jackson models next to Rivendell's antique typewriter. You can type out suggestions on index cards and post them to the bulletin board, which promises to answer all suggestions—eventually.

I confidently stepped up to the typewriter to compliment the store on its book selection and to suggest some Jane Austen in the future. I learned on a typewriter much like this, so I had no fear. But this typewriter was a doozy. I had to really punch those keys. I ended up index-fingering it, like a newspaper reporter in a pre-code movie. But I managed to get through it and it was a satisfying form of communication.

So what can we take away from this shopping experience? Well, everyone at Rivendell is really, really nice. They gave Jackson a fine Frisbee that is now one of our favorites. They tried not to charge Keith for some IVO lip balm, but Keith insisted on paying. Maybe they felt bad about running out of pine tar soap. Grant thinks they might be the largest distributor of pine tar soap in the U.S. They're getting more—don't worry.

Anyway, shopping should be personable, fun, and sometimes weird, and this store covers all its bases nicely. And the books are great. I hope they get a bigger selection, because any store that promotes Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal wholeheartedly is a good neighborhood store indeed.

Rivendell also has a bike showroom in Walnut Creek and you can test-ride bikes there. The new Bike Book & Hatchet is throwing a Grand Opening celebration December 14th: details. This very pleasant video introduces the people who make up Rivendell.

Disclosure: we've known Grant for a long time, though we really need to see more of him. I'm glad his presence has made its way downtown. Grant's Blog.

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