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Profiles In Courage: Joe Nocella of 718 Cyclery


Gadzooks, Joe Nocella is a busy dude. An architect by day, custom bike shop owner after hours, little league and football coach, teacher at Pratt... I'm exhausted just typing this out. Oh, and he has two dogs, two rugrats, two cats, and one wife. 

Nocella's South Slope shop, 718 Cyclery, is getting all kinds of accolades for its friendly, collaborative bike-building process. 

We got him to dish about breeders, bikes, best routes to the city, and Marty Markowitz. 

When and why did you move to Park Slope? (Did you move here, by the way, or just your business?)

I live right around the corner from my shop.  I am a native New Yorker, and have made Brooklyn my home for the last 15 years.  I love the schools, the transportation access, the safety, proximity to the park, and the fact that there are some very old school characters still kicking around.

Has the hood changed since you moved in?

The South Slope has definitely gotten more lively. It used to be a sleepy corner of Brooklyn and now it's teeming with bubble tea shops, high end consignment stores (and bike shops).

Do you feel the parents of Park Slope are getting a bum rap or do we deserve our reputation? 

I think Park Slope parents deserve their rep.  We have raised our kids to be respectful members of the community; which doesnt seem to be a priority here in the Slope.  This whole things about letting kids "explore," giving them first names that sound like last names, and not saying "no" is crap. When my kids scream in restaurants, it pisses me off more than anyone else there, and we are quickly out the door.

What do you like most/least about our hood?

I like the scale.  I am an architect by day in Manhattan, and I work on big complicated buildings all over the world.  I enjoy coming home or to the shop and things are much more quiet and peaceful.

Favorite spot in Park Slope?

I am a South Sloper that doesn't venture North of 9th Street often.  I am in the park coaching whatever sports my kids are playing. The family also likes Little Purity for weekend breakfast.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing that’s happened to you since you started the shop?

A woman walked in and asked "Is this the shoe store?"... I turned to my employees and asked "Wow, are we that off?"

Did you have a latter-day conversion to bikeyness or have you always been like this?

I was a bike messenger in the late 80's in NYC.  I was into bikes as much as most of us were as kids.  My latter-day conversion to bikes happened after I had one stolen, and was convinced by some buddies to build my own.  I just fell in love with the process.  Like architecture, there are a lot of left brain/right brain issues that really drew me in....unlike architecture, bike building happens much quicker and at a much smaller scale.

Speaking of architecture, is it the most thankless profession of all and did you do a minor in psychology? Are NYC clients worse than elsewhere? 

I've been at it 15 years, so I know how to avoid having it actually kill me.  I have seen it devour people and marriages, and I simply wont let it.  I work for HUGE firms and I have happily avoided residential architecture. Now, that is pain.

Do you think Marty Markowitz is being a douchebag about this PPW bike lane lawsuit?

You are using too kind a word....

Where DO you come down on the bike lane issue?

Love 'em...I love to ride to work, and I feel it gives cyclists some legitimacy.  As a bike store owner, its no secret that I owe much of my business success to that fact that more people are riding.

What’s the best route from Park Slope to Manhattan by bike?

5th Ave/Bergen/Jay/Tillary/Brooklyn Bridge.

Where do you come down on the current trends in cycling attire. As in the plethora of middle-aged dudes walking around looking like they think they’re in the Tour de France?

I try not to let people's appearance (and clothes) cloud my judgement about them. People can wear whatever the hell they want (and where did you get that picture of me!) 

WHY, I ask you, WHY are they necessary? 

I think people in general like to accessorize to help them identify with something...cyclists just choose to do that more brazenly than others. Be it in Lycra or tight jeans, people seem to have this need to don a uniform to let everyone know what group they are trying to identify with.  To each their own, I could care less.

Who needs a custom-made, fancy-schmancy bike and how much do you have to pay for this? Can I bring in a bunch of broken down Schwinns and have you pimp them into something awesome?

The biggest misconception is that my shop is purely a high-end/custom situation.  Fact is our bikes cost what comparable "off the rack" bikes cost, AND you learn how to build it.  Also, we do all of the things that "normal" bike shops do in terms of sales, tune-ups and repairs. Lets say your budget is $900.

If you build with us, I can guarantee the following:

  1. You will learn how your bike goes together through of Collaborative Build Process, as you are there for the build.
  2. It will be totally unique. Some people don't have a problem pulling a bike off the rack, fortunately for us, many people do.
  3. Because of the way we structure our pricing, you will get more bang for your buck with us. I do not EVER slag off my fellow shop owners...lets just say that our approach is vastly different than most shops.

 And, regarding those Schwinns...wheel them in!  

What, if anything, can you tell about people from their bikes?

You can kind of get a sense of someone's habits by how well they care for their bikes...other than that, I dont look to deep.  Our shop is like an animal shelter...all bikes are welcome. I find that people like to feel good about their bikes, and we do what we can to provide an environment where that can happen.

Best beginner bike rides in the borough?

Nothing beats Prospect Park... it's a (relatively) safe environment to learn, and is filled with folks who have the same idea you do.

Thanks for talking to us, dude. You may have even convinced me to start saving up for my husband's future mid-life crisis mobile: a custom-made bike and some lycra panties to go with it. 

Follow Allison on Twitter. Please, it's getting pathetic to only have 123 followers.

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