Design | Bikes on Wheels

M. Shea _ Melissa Shea _  Bellomo & Shea _ Bikes on Wheels _ Queen Street West _ storefront _design _72dpi

 © 2011 Front Adhesive Tumblr

  • Company || Bellomo & Shea
  • Project Type || Retail Store Renovation
  • Year || 2011
  • Budget || Withheld
  • Area || 1620 sq ft
  • Status || Built
  • Location || 779 Queen Street West, Toronto
  • Personal Role || Partner, Client Liaison, Co-Project Manager, Co-Designer, Drawings (with Giuseppe Bellomo)
  • Project Description || In those days we were called Bellomo & Shea–I was running my own design practice in partnership with Giuseppe Bellomo. Bellomo & Shea is now defunct, but we collaborated on some great work at the time, and among those projects, I am proud to number the Bikes on Wheels’ Queen West Store, in Toronto. It’s a beautiful space, which we designed on a limited budget for some great clients.
  • Photography Credits || Robin Hamill, Giuseppe Bellomo, Toronto Star,, and Bikes on Wheels Instagram

Bellomo and Shea Bikes on Wheels Queen West Panoramic Entrance 2

© 2011 Robin Hamill Photography

These photographs, above, were taken as the shop was being completed, with a view from the depth of the shop towards the Queen West window prior to the grand opening, and of the box-style widget holders near the Queen Street window.

The owners of Bikes on Wheels in Kensington Market, Sean and his wife, wanted to open a second bike shop in Toronto—this time, on Queen Street West. They approached Giuseppe & I to design their new shop. They were, at the time, young business people, operating on a tight budget: but they wanted something cool & cheap and fun, something that would work well in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood.

To design the Bikes on Wheels Queen Street West shop, Giuseppe and I started with an understanding of the bike-shop boys. The Bikes on Wheels boys were, and still are, a “gang” (although without the violent sense of the word), a friend-group devoted to the happy pursuit of building, riding, and living a life of bicycles.

As we did some initial sketches, we knew right away, as the fast-track demolition, design, and build process began, that the bikes should hang on the wall, like art. Often initial ideas, as long as they are articulated properly in the final design, are some of the most powerful.


© 2011 Giuseppe Bellomo

These are some initial sketches Giuseppe made of the Bikes on Wheels space: you can see the bikes hanging on the wall, and the globe-lights, although the ones we went with in the end were more industrial. The initial idea of the wood display, behind the cash desk, is also present, although it developed further into the boxes, to keep the space more minimal.


© 2011 Giuseppe Bellomo

More of Giuseppe’s initial sketches, this time of the long and narrow space we were working with, trying to think of some concepts with which to draw people into this almost tunnel-like space.

Bikes On Wheels Queen West shop is long and narrow; with limited funds and time to design, we tried to concentrate our efforts near the front of the shop, where our efforts would have the most impact, in terms of street-presence, and calling in potential bike-shop customers. This is where Giuseppe’s idea of the wrap started: we wanted to involve not just a cash desk & display, but the entirety of the walls, the roof, the floor, in a broad sweep, like the beginning of a long spiral that visually and viscerally drew people in off the street.


This is a section drawing of the shop, which shows how long and narrow the space is. The entrance is from the left of the drawing, near the cash display. The back room, up a small step, and pictured here at the bottom, was the bike-mechanic working area. 


This plan-view drawing shows the placement of the millwork in the shop.


This is one of the shop drawings which we made, for the carpenter to construct the millwork. This is one of the display cases for expensive bike seats and handle bars, and stem heads, which is located right next to the entrance and across from the cash counter. 

M. Shea _ Melissa Shea _ Bellomo & Shea _ Bikes on Wheels _ Queens Street West _ cash counter and boxes _ 72 dpi

The front area of the shop has a very warm, wood-and-brick colour and material palette. The brick behind the boxes was exposed during demolition, as we peeled back the layers of drywall to reveal it, and we left raw and exposed. At the back of the shop, the raw brick is used to hang choice bike frames for display. Bellomo-&-Shea-boxes

The boxes we designed to hang on the brick wall, on french cleat joints, close to the front entrance, and behind the cash desk, where customers could browse for bells and lights and other small items. These boxes, and the exposed brick, are seen by passersby from Queen Street West, and we used this front area to draw people into the shop (we concentrated our somewhat limited budget on design features at the front of the shop).


In this photograph, taken during construction, from the front of the shop, with a view towards the wall-boxes and the exposed brick of the mechanic area at the rear, you can see how the boxes open. For the lighting we used industrial-style hanging cage-bulbs.Bellomo-&-Shea-bench

This is a bench designed for shoe display, which runs from the front entrance well into the shop.


These are the cash desk shop drawings: you can see the cash desk in the accompanying photograph.

A cash desk stands by the front window on little legs, almost floating. We wanted to keep this element small & cute and sleek, not taking up too much space in the narrow entry area, to make it seem roomier. This, as well as the wood-wrap that runs up the wall and over the roof, draw the eye up and around, as soon as a person enters the shop, emphasizing being “inside,” the warm wood interior, and drawing the eye through the finest & most expensive of the bike parts, kept in the display case to the left of the door.

Bellomo & Shea _ Bikes on Wheels Queen West _boxes

© 2011

Afterwards, the photos of the shop were published on, as well as The Toronto Star: “It isedgy,” the Star article said, “and the cool hipster kids who hang out at the place love it.” It subsequently appeared in another article on the Star’s website, as well as on Tumblr and Instagram and numerous blogs. Shortly after opening the 2011 Queen Street West store, Bikes on Wheels also appeared in Monocle Magazine. The clients were excited by the publicity and it helped sales. Overall, this was a very successful project, and a pleasure to be a part of. On a limited budget, and with limited time, we designed a small but commercially and (according to Bellomo & Shea, and our Bikes on Wheels clients) visually & aesthetically successful bike shop, which became another near-club-house-type hangout for the Bikes On Wheels crew.


“No Training Wheels Needed Here”

||TorontoStar, 2011||

“Storegazing: A Kensington cycling institution opens a second location”

||, 2011||

“Best Place to Buy a New Bike”

||Monocle Magazine, June 2011||

* Bikes on Wheels website:

* Bikes on Wheels Instagram:

* Bikes on Wheels Twitter:

* Robin Hamill’s photography: