By Tammy Scileppi
Ask any apartment-dweller about space and the answer is always the same: “There isn’t enough of it!”
If you own a bike, then you know that storing it can be an ever-evolving challenge, i.e. a hassle. So, here’s an idea: Make use of unused wall space. Instead of parking your bike in the front hallway, where it leaves scuff marks and gets tripped on, try something different by showcasing your ride up on the wall, as part of your décor. This frees up valuable floor space, helping balance your home’s overall Feng Shui.
Using old-world craftsmanship to solve a modern dilemma, a father-and-son team, Victor Mastrorocco, Sr., 62 and Matt, 29, started an independent business — Urban City Bike Shelves — handcrafting these sturdy, eye-pleasing, all-wood wall accessories for the past several years, from the family’s garage-turned-wood-shop, in dad’s West Hempstead, L.I. home.
Matt, who grew up there, said he processing shipments of finished shelves ordered online from the Astoria pad he shares with two friends. “We recently sold to Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria and Canada. I would say in the United States, the biggest sellers are New York City, California, and Texas.”
“These bike shelves came about when I came to my father with this idea I had. Since living in Queens and in small apartments, it was a pain finding a place to put my bike — one of my main means of transportation,” said Matt. “So, I thought of this bike shelf idea and told my dad my vision; a few days later, he handed me the very first shelf, and I just knew there would be people out there who would need something like this, so we kept making them.”
Matt got a friend to design a website and spread the word. “We started making sales the first week, and basically just kept going from there.”
Fashioned to easily hang on a wall and hold your bike securely, these unique shelves are available in quality cherry wood or walnut then finished with a natural wax.
Working at the shop on his days off, the senior business partner, who has worked with his hands his whole life, has a job at a construction manufacturer. His son, a respiratory therapist at Lenox Hill Hospital, recalls his dad “building things, fixing the house, making a deck, building a shed. Since I was a little kid, I’ve watched him work long days and he always put a hammer in my hand to help him. We’ve always worked together on any projects my dad had in the woodshop,” said Matt.
“Working with my father is a beautiful thing, since we know each other so well and feed off one another. I’m learning a lot from him.”
Mom is the cook of the business and keeps everything running smoothly. “After working a long day in the wood shop, we can rely on her to have a nice bowl of pasta with meatballs on the table waiting for us,” said Matt, whose older brother, Victor, helps out if they get backed up.
UCBS’s basic design hasn’t changed much since they started out and not one bike shelf is identical to the other — giving them character. They can be customized to fit just about any bike or even a skateboard: “A customer in Canada wanted a bike shelf to also hold his skateboard. So we’re in the process of designing a shelf with two slots,” said Matt.
“When we’re not in the wood shop, my parents come out to Astoria to eat here, and their ‘go to’ restaurant is Il Forno Italia, up on Ditmars Blvd.,” said Matt. “As for me, if it’s during the week and I’m craving a burger, you can find me at Sweet Afton on 34th and 30th. I’m a huge burger fan and have to say they have the best burgers in Queens.”
Steering away from food, what’s their vision for the future? “We’re just doing something we like and realize life is too short to not be doing what you truly enjoy. When all is said and done, it’s about staying happy, having fun and being with your family.”
In a world where so much is mass produced, it feels good to bring it back to how things used to be. “There are people who still appreciate that, and these are the people who are buying from us.” A new project they’re working on is handmade cutting boards.
Bike shelves are $150. Custom orders are available at urbancitybikeshelves.com.