How Henry Sam, owner of Kayuh Bicycles and Cafe, kept his business riding amid the COVID-19 pandemic
The bike shop on Girard Ave. plans to reopen in the Spring with outdoor seating.
MORE IN THIS SECTION
Nestled between Francisville and Temple University is a cafe so unique, you’d have to see it to believe it.
The spot is called Kayuh Bicycles and Cafe, and it has been making headlines since 2012 from Temple students and other locals.
“It’s a bike shop and a cafe,” said Henry Sam, owner of the business.
The shop opened in 2012, when the founder, Izzat Rahman, a Temple Alumni who immigrated from Malaysia in 2009, planned to open a shop that would focus on the community.
“He started out with the bike shop, and then in 2014 he began drafting a floor plan to add the cafe,” said Sam.
Once Rahman opened up the cafe, curious bystanders couldn’t help but wonder what was going on inside.
Word got out that Kayuh Bicycles and Cafe provided bike repairs at friendly costs alongside delicious coffee and snacks, and Temple students and other locals flocked to what would become their new hang-out spot.
In addition to the coffee and repairs, the space also lent itself to events, which Rahman began hosting regularly.
They were free and allowed community members to bring family and friends.
“We had open mic night, talent shows, and speaker series,” said Sam.
The cafe also helped many local politicians, such as congresspeople, host campaigns at their shop, where they provide locally-brewed coffee and food.
Sam was proud to see the business flourish into a community hub that provided a friendly environment for all who entered.
That is, until March 25. 2020, and Gov. Tom Wolf shut down all non-essential businesses in the state.
Many small businesses bore the brunt of Wolf’s decision, including Kayuh.
“Financially, we definitely tanked a lot,” said Sam. “A lot of my staff didn’t feel comfortable working, so we shut down the cafe for multiple months.”
As of now, Sam doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable opening up his establishment until it is 100% safe. However, there are plans to reopen.
“We do plan on having an outdoor space for the spring,” he said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sam was forced to cancel events.
“Aside from the financial aspect of it, all of the events that we had, we’re not doing anymore,” he said.
But virtual events aren’t out of the question. In fact, he is looking to reintroduce open mic nights and repair clinics to his devoted customers.
“For the bike shop, something that has really helped us are our free pick-up and delivery option for bicycle repairs,” he said. “We will pick it up and fix the bike or they can pick it up.”
Sam has kept his bike repair cost low since the birth of Kayuh and it hasn’t changed with the pandemic.
Spring is just around the corner, which means Kayuh will have outdoor seating.
When the time comes, be sure to grab a breakfast sandwich and an iced Americano, and talk to Sam if your bicycle is in any need of repairs. He will be sure to answer all of your questions.
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.