Here at Burley we’ve recently been talking a lot about community; it is actually a frequent topic here at HQ because when we boil it all down, the communities – those that we build and those we are invited into – are what keep us inspired, what keep our mission relevant. When we talk about building a legacy, it is impossible to overlook the inherent need for a next generation to grasp hold and elevate that legacy. There are champions in every community that seem to effortlessly bring people together and inspire exactly this type of authentic, powerful engagement.
We recently paid a visit to one of these savants, Rob Cohen of Falling Sky Brewing. Falling Sky’s mission is to be a meeting place for the community. We got a chance to ask him about his own secret recipe for execution on this mission, and it was exactly the kind of visit that reminds us why these connections are so important.
On a superficial level, Falling Sky is a really cool place. It is an ever popular Friday-evening-ride-home waypoint for the Burley commuter contingent because it is conveniently located; there is a dog-friendly patio; they focus just as much on the food as the brews, and there is always more than enough bike parking. Also the house hot sauce; we would go there just for the hot sauce. And while all of that is great, and more than what we might get from a run of the mill brewpub, there is a lot more substance to Falling Sky.
For starters, they have their own bike share program. Bike share programs are frequenting the news lately; case in point – Nike’s recent $10 million purchase of “Biketown” – a branded 1, 000 bike fleet for its hometown of Portland, OR. Programs on a larger scale, like Biketown, typically require a heavy amount of subsidization to maintain a centralized fleet with multiple locations. Rob tells us this is just one reason why he and his business partner, Jason Carriere, decided to step up and make a contribution, leveraging their two relatively central locations and a fleet of underused bicycles from University of Oregon.
According to Rob, the pairing was a natural fit: “Beer is egalitarian – at least in Eugene, anyway. It’s not pretentious. Biking can be the same way.” The challenge, he says, is to make it accessible to everyone, regardless of background; in his words, the best communities are the ones that are not so homogenous. Falling Sky does this in a big way: their bike share program is free. It doesn’t cost a dime, and it includes use of a cruiser-style bike from the fleet, a U-lock, lights, and a helmet for up to 24 hours. “We’ve had some folks take them out for longer trips of 2 – 3 days, and that is usually okay, so long as we agree on the timeline up front.”
The coolest part of the program, he says, is that “People can’t believe it’s free. I love giving people something they don’t expect.” And that was his first tip for us on building and fostering a community. “Small gestures go a long way.” When you arrive at the Falling Sky Delicatessen, you will find a large, carport-style covered bike rack, which is a very welcoming feature here in the Pacific Northwest. Inside, patrons will find a floor pump. Parents are thrilled to find high chairs, a small collection of games and toys, and an outdoor sandbox. This last part is especially important to Rob, who mentioned multiple times that it is critical to get kids involved early and often in the community and in the outdoors. After all, they’re the next generation – they’re the group to carry on the legacy.
Rob loves the idea of riding around town instead of driving because it allows him to see things from a different vantage point. That was his next tip to inspire engagement: give people an opportunity to see something differently. For example, Falling Sky hosts an annual event called “The World’s Shortest Bike Race”. It is a bike race of 13.1 feet. The main intention? “To promote biking for fun. Cycling is really not so serious.” The race is designed to be fun and accessible for anyone – from toddlers to grandparents – on any non-powered bike (or unicycle). Last year, the event saw over 100 participants across three categories; Rob is already in discussions with other community groups to move the event to a larger venue this fall.
If you ask Rob, he’ll tell you that “it doesn’t take much” to open the doors and welcome people to the table, but if you ask us, we are super lucky to have Rob and his Falling Sky team to encourage and inspire our own community engagement, and to be always setting the bar a little higher.
What gets you inspired? Give us your community building tips and insights, and tell us what you’re doing to build a legacy: https://burley.com/share-your-burley-story.
William Craighead (www.craigheadshots.com)