Stores with Stories: Campus WheelWorks

By Nancy J. Parisi

Published on | Last Updated

With a vibrant mural alongside the eastern side of its new digs, it’s hard to miss the second location of Campus WheelWorks on Niagara Street. The mural, entitled “1880’s Bikes in Vines,” created by local artist Nicole Cherry, incorporates two vintage bicycles, a bold chevron pattern in blues, and an abundance of colorful flowers. 

Campus Wheelworks co-owner, Ethan Johnson / Mural by Nicole Cherry

The mural, part of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum’s public art initiative that has placed murals and sculptures throughout the city, welcomes cyclists to this sleek shop that is half-boutique, half-workshop. With their tagline “Get outside and ride!” Campus WheelWorks celebrates – and promotes – the cycling life with bike sales, rentals, and their non-profit Campus Cycling Collective, founded in 2013. The latter is a year-round riding club of a series of group rides for various fitness levels, heading out on 10-, 20-, or 30-mile treks: they are paused for 2021 but will return when conditions are right. “All the group rides will start at Niagara Street,” co-owner Ethan Johnson says, noting that advance, online registration is required.

Campus WheelWorks’ first location, one mile away on Elmwood Avenue between Auburn Avenue and Breckenridge Street, has been a bike shop since 1975, a spin-off business from Buffalo-based Clayton’s Gifts & Toys that’s now located in Williamsville. It became Campus Wheelworks in 1996. The current co-owners – Johnson and Alex Davies (both lifelong bike nuts) – took the helm/handlebars in 2007.

Of the Niagara Street location, Johnson says, “It’s even more of a corridor for cyclists, more convenient and we’re close to the I-190. Niagara Street also has a bike lane heading north or south. Our two locations are autonomous and we have variations of inventory at each shop – we only do bike fittings at this location. We also own this building, we rent our space on Elmwood.” 

The Niagara Street interior is sleek and neatly organized: racked bikes are to the left and right, parts and riding wear are for sale in the center, and against the back wall (an electric blue, signature color of one of the brands carried here, Giant) a sales counter. Campus carries adult bikes built by Giant, Liv (Giant’s line for women, made by women), Surly, and All-City. Commuter/urban bikes are available as well as mountain bike models and e-bikes: fat bikes, perfect for winter weather, are also available. Prices start at $750 and can go up to $1750. The bike line for kids, Strider’s balance bike model (no training wheels), is $119.99.

In the back is the Campus WheelWorks service department, outfitted with an impressive coffee bar. A natural question springs to mind: do people stop by for a coffee, and then feel obligated to purchase a bike? Between the showroom and service area is a homemade machine that Alex built; it fits riders to bikes. Customers and their selected model are placed on the platform where staff measures the proper fit of a bike’s frame to a rider’s.

Rentals are out of the Elmwood location only and riders can select fat, road, mountain, or hybrid (good for tooling around the city, or for a longer ride). Rates are $15 for one hour, $50 for a day. A weekly bike rental is $200. Reservations for bikes may be made via the Campus website: it’s also a great way to check out a bike before committing to a purchase.

There has been a bike boom, and Campus has been happy to be a part of it. “We were deemed essential,” Johnson says.

Campus Wheelworks (Niagara), 1330 Niagara St. / / (716) 248-2372 / Facebook / Instagram

Nancy J. Parisi headshot

Nancy J. Parisi

Nancy is a social documentation photographer based in Buffalo, NY.