PAOLI — A poster of Eddy Merckx, a Belgian considered one of the most successful riders in the history of competitive cycling, hangs above a $3,000 Dutch-style town bike with wooden fenders, a nifty removable front basket and a set of canvas saddle bags on the back.
Music from James, an English alternative rock band from the 1990s, plays on vinyl from a turntable in what appears to be a living room, while Intelligentsia Coffee is served from a small counter near the front door.
And, if a passing bicyclist has a flat, there’s a good chance a complementary inner tube may be on hand.
The newest business to set up shop in the historic Paoli House in this hamlet of artisans, cheese, clay and chicken supplies is part coffee shop, high-end custom bike retailer and a museum that pays homage to some of the biggest names in cycling. The 900-square-foot space with its more than 120-year-old wooden floors has also allowed Eric Maves to clear out a portion of the basement of his Madison home to properly curate what he calls 1 Oak Bicycles.
There are books, posters, vintage bicycle parts, a wall of iconic racing jerseys and, hanging from the ceiling, Maves’ personal collection of bikes, some of which have never been ridden and are worth thousands of dollars each.
“It’s got kind of a clubhouse vibe to it. I really kind of dreamt this space to be a welcoming environment for anybody but especially for cyclists,” Maves said of his shop, located in what for years was home to an art gallery.
“To a certain extent it’s kind of like the velo man cave that like every bike geek wants to have at their house but their significant other won’t allow them. This is a place for them to come and kind of take temporary ownership and hang out for a while.”
The space is complemented by Cafe Domestique, a coffee shop company founded by biking enthusiast Dan Coppola, who in late 2016 opened a coffee shop in shared space with Cargo Bike Shop on Williamson Street in Madison. His Paoli location, which opened last fall but closed for the winter, will reopen March 2 and, like 1 Oak, will only be open on weekends, although there is talk of expanding hours to Thursday evenings and all day Friday once the weather turns warmer and riders begin to descend on this community that hugs the Sugar River just south of Verona.
The coffee side serves up espresso and specialty drinks, locally made pastries and has five small tables. Outdoor seating and a bike repair kiosk with a pump and tethered tools are also on the way. Coppola worked with Maves at Trek for a time and they reconnected in late 2017 when Coppola brought a mobile espresso bar to a community holiday event in Paoli’s restored and historic stone mill constructed in 1864.
“At that point it hadn’t dawned on me that we should put a coffee shop down here,” Coppola said. “I had always dreamed of opening a bicycle-themed cafe, but opening a bicycle-themed cafe with a bike shop that has this inventory and this image makes my job a lot easier.”
Maves had initially opened his shop in the mill in October 2017, but it was tucked upstairs with no visible store front. He moved into the Paoli House in September.
But 1 Oak Bicycles isn’t your typical bike shop. This is where Maves has created a showroom to exhibit his work of building custom bikes from the frame up, restoring classic bicycles and modifying rides for customers who desire unique paint jobs, hard-to-find parts or top-notch accessories. Maves has worked for Trek in Waterloo since 1995 and since 2008 has been with the company’s Project One, a program that allows customers to customize their Trek bikes by choosing from a variety of color schemes, drive trains, parts and accessories.
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Maves, 47, has no intention of leaving that position, which includes customizing bikes for Trek president John Burke. The 1 Oak side business allows Maves to work on more than just Trek bicycles and do more in-depth work by scouring the planet for parts to build bikes from the frame up. He also can restore bikes from the 1970s or 1980s back to their original look. He favors parts from Italian manufacturer Campagnolo so much that he has the company logo tattooed on his lower right ankle.
“I was the first of my friends to ditch BMX bikes,” said Maves, who became enamored with road bikes in the 1980s when Greg LeMond was dominating the sport. “I traded in my BMX bike for my first road bike in 1984 and it’s just kind of been going ever since.”
Maves grew up in Edgerton, where his father, Fred Maves, owned a French touring bike and was a high school art teacher. Once or twice a year, Maves would accompany his father to Paoli to pick up supplies at the Paoli Clay Co., which remains in operation and has been supplying artists since the early 1960s. Paoli is also home to Cluck the Chicken Store, the Paoli Pub & Grill, the Paoli Schoolhouse Shops & Cafe, several art studios and galleries and Landmark Creamery Provisions, a cheese shop, cafe and gift store that opened in late 2017.
The centerpiece of the unincorporated community is the gristmill and flour house that were built just after the end of the Civil War and purchased by Bill Hastings at a 1980 sheriff’s auction and restored. The mill, which sits on a 3½-foot-thick stone foundation and is on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to Cottage Goddess Gifts & Events and The Hop Garden’s taproom and beer garden. The former flour building is dedicated to the Bread & Brat Haus.
Across the street, the Paoli House, home to 1 Oak Bicycles and Cafe Domestique, was built in the late 1800s and used as a hotel, saloon and brewery. Today, the upstairs has been converted to the Paoli House Inn, a two-bedroom vacation rental. The building also received a paint job last fall that covered over the “Paoli House” name on the facade but Maves said there are plans to repaint the sign, which would help replicate the building’s original look.
“You can’t beat it. It’s a prime location here,” said Maves. “I’ve known of Paoli practically my entire life and then it was off my radar a good long while but I always knew that it was super popular with all of the local cyclists and it was a great out and back point for the Downtown (Madison) crowd.”
‘One of a kind’
Maves began collecting bikes and parts in 1986 while he was still in high school. He spent a year at UW-Whitewater but dropped out and took a job as a chef at Coachman’s Resort, where he worked in high school. He spent five years cooking and the summer of 1995 working at the resort’s golf course before taking a manufacturing position on Trek’s welded aluminum frames line. He transitioned to customer support and customer service in 1998, and worked in engineering and the company’s test lab before joining Project One.
The work that Maves does for his 1 Oak Bicycles, which stands for “one of a kind,” is done out of his house in Madison’s Meadowood neighborhood but he’s yet to launch a website and does much of his promotion via Instagram and Twitter. His space in Paoli serves as a showroom where he has 10 to 12 bikes for sale at any one time, most ranging in price from $1,000 to $3,000. Those hanging from the ceiling are not for sale but his personal collection provides examples of what he can do for his clients, some of whom can spend up to $20,000 or more customizing their ride.
“They’re just kind of meant to be pieces to inspire and allow people to recollect back to days gone by,” Maves said. “Some of them, actually by design, are pristine, never ridden (and) never will be so they are purely for collective purposes.”
They include a 1990 Trek Composite 5000, Trek’s first foray into a full carbon composite frame, which Maves rode in the Trek 100 in 2015. There’s also a bike from Vitus, a French frame builder. The 1985 bike, with a bonded aluminum frame set, was built by Maves about 10 years ago with the intention of it never being ridden. One of his most prized possessions is a frame used by the late Marco Pantani in the 1994 Tour de France. Maves purchased the frame on eBay in 2005 and has rebuilt the bike to make it look like it did in 1994, including the water bottle, handles and decals.
“The saddle height, the bar position, stem length is to the exact T,” Maves said. “If he was still alive and came in here today he could just throw a leg over and ride it.”
Barry Adams covers regional news for the Wisconsin State Journal. Send him ideas for On Wisconsin at 608-252-6148 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.