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Friday, October 21, 2011

Sopo bike co-op needs new home, asks for your donations

The lease is up and so is the rent. The Sopo Bicycle Co-op, the East Atlanta nonprofit which has provided Atlantans with cheap-as-dirt bike repairs since 2006, has to move.

"Although we have had the luxury of low rent since our founding, we anticipate increased costs with a new space, thus we are writing to ask your support for our first ever SOPO RENT FUND," the volunteer-run bike repair shop says in an email and blog post. Concluding the news release is a link for paypal donations.

"We are needing to move because the space we have is being renovated, and is intended to be used as a larger retail or commercial restaurant," says Tito Sands, a Sopo board member.

For the past five years, Sopo has operated out of a cramped shop space in the back of the Blue Frog Cantina. With the end of Sopo's five-year-lease, some EAV restaurants are looking to expand.

"It's not a bad thing, not a negative," Sands says. "We understand the situation they're dealing with in terms of making the most out of their space."

In fact, Sopo wants to use the opportunity to upgrade.

"We have been looking for an opportunity for growth in the past two years for a larger, more sustainable space," he says. "It's not surprising us, but it's not something that we think is going to be detrimental to the co-op."

Believe it or not, says Sands, Sopo's current space wasn't intended to be their permanent location in the first place: "When the co-op was originated, we didn't have the scope to search for a permanent space. Only in the last two or three years have we addressed that issue."

With the recent need to relocate, Sopo is hoping for an opportunity to move into a space that might be less cramped, and perhaps not located in a back parking lot facing away from the street.

Sands says the co-op's new home will be "within the village area preferably, but we’d ideally like to stay in the village, or just in greater East Atlanta." As it will mostly be an impromptu mechanic's shop, Sands isn't worried about aesthetics. Sopo is ready to fix up a rough or dilapidated space into whatever is practical for housing the donation-driven collective of bicycle fixer-uppers.

Even if a new location isn't found, Sopo has contingency plans ready that, frankly, are cool as hell. According to Sands, mobile containers could be purchased to build an open-shop space, or Sopo could temporarily operate out of existing bike shops.

"We are more or less willing to be flexible for two or so years so that we can be happy with what we get," he says.

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