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The Bicycle Kitchen


The Bicycle Kitchen has been located on Heliotrope and Melrose for five years. The non-profit is in the middle of a fundraising campaign to raise $55,555.55 in honor of the celebration.

Bicycle Kitchen co-founder Ben Guzman talks about the evolution of The Kitchen and the community that it fosters.
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Night at the Museum
An energetic crowd starts the night sharing music and drinks with the stuffed animal and fossilized residents of the Natural History Museum.
Night Golf
Night golf at Westchester Golf Course is for everyone: die-hards, newbies, couples, frat boys. Everyone.

Angelenos gain skills and camaraderie at the Bicycle Kitchen in East Hollywood

By LeTania Kirkland

At 6:30 on a Thursday night, several sneaker-clad teens and 20-somethings waited anxiously outside The Bicycle Kitchen. The front door stood ajar and teased a bit, but there were not enough cooks in the kitchen.

Within minutes, two cooks arrived and the evening began.

The Bicycle Kitchen is a volunteer-run, non-profit bicycle education space, which sits on Heliotrope and Melrose Avenue in East Hollywood. The Kitchen is celebrating its fifth year at the “Hel-Mel” location and is running an anniversary campaign to raise $55,555.55 by June 12.

Though the Kitchen has felt the sting of the recession, the community that supports it still has the same fervor of its early days.

Volunteers, known as “cooks,” enter from all walks of life to offer their expertise and soak in the camaraderie in the room.

“I love the bike community. I especially love working with people one-on-one and teaching them and getting them enthusiastic about bikes,” said Gabby Peppas, who has been a cook at the Kitchen for over four years.

The Kitchen is full. It holds six bike stands, tires hang from the walls, bike frames are suspended from the ceiling and brightly painted tools are carefully placed on wood panels of the same color variety. All of these elements are available to clients looking to repair their bikes or build one from scratch, while being guided by a cook.

Those who walk in looking to purchase a bike are quickly (yet gently) told they are not standing in a bike shop, but a space with "projects" to be pursued. Projects are bike frames waiting to be transformed into a functioning machine, by the next brave soul willing to offer the time and patience to learn the craft.

Though bicycle riding is a growing trend to some and a necessity for others; the sustainability of the Kitchen is as much about community as it is about trends or transportation.

Emily Ramsey built her first bike at the Kitchen over six years ago and could not stay away. She is a cook and a registered nurse who works in the emergency room at UCLA Medical Center. She said to experience Los Angeles on a bicycle creates an entirely new lens through which to view the city. Being surrounded by others with a similar perspective, she said, is reason enough to return.

“I count myself in the number that is only still in Los Angeles because of the Bicycle Kitchen and there are lots of us that would probably would say that,” said Ramsey.

The Kitchen began as a gathering of friends at a small studio apartment in the Los Angeles Eco-Village. What began as a small group quickly grew into a large community enthusiastic about wrenching.

When the Kitchen moved to Hel-Mel, the founders intended to convert it into a for-profit bike shop.

Ben Guzman, a co-founder of the Kitchen said as members of the Kitchen rallied and offered up their time and skills to cultivate the new space, it became apparent that the Kitchen had taken on a life of its own.

“We realized we really couldn’t own this as a for-profit space and everyone became a volunteer,” said Guzman.

Those involved with the Kitchen have continued to take on a sense of ownership. When Benjamin Kuby showed up on his night off on Thursday and realized the Kitchen was short one cook, he offered to stay. He was there until 11:30 p.m. (two hours after closing time) to make sure Monica Heiman repaired her bike. He felt “responsible” that she get home on her wheels that evening.

If not for the responsibility, Kuby said he still would have stuck around to work on a project and take in the vibe.

“I feel like we’re all kind of sitting around the fire sharing secrets and stories about the days adventure,” said Kuby.

The fire is not limited to the cooks. Many clients at the Kitchen arrive with the same enthusiasm for the bikes and the environment. Lester Guijarro started coming to the Kitchen two months ago to build a bike and “catch up” with his friends who have adopted bike riding as their means for transportation. He said spending an evening with the people at the Kitchen is an added bonus to the bike he will have once his project is completed.

“It’s kind of like a pack of misfits. You can come here and ask any cook and they’ll help you out and they don’t scoff at you in any way. They’re open to anyone here and I think that’s really cool," said Guijarro.

Guzman said, despite the economy, the Kitchen’s success largely depends upon the enthusiasm that is shared by cooks and clients and the important service they provide to the city.

“It’s a community resource used by the community, and its longevity will be based on the community.”



Co-founder, Ben Guzman said most cooks in The Kitchen are of a "lefty or environmental ilk."


Ariel Fujita (left) and Sonia Legaspi (right) showed up for "Bicycle Bitchen" night to get to work on Legaspi's ride.


Projects in progress are marked with a red tag.

Cooks at The Kitchen are drawn in for many reasons. Ben Guzman speaks about their vital role in the organization's development.

Monica Heiman showed up to The Kitchen thinking she would be out by closing time. The night wore on, but she left on two wheels.


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Background photo by MikeFinkelstein