Back Alley Bikes is more than a bike shop. It is a community. It is a group of people passionate about bikes and determined to make the world a better place through them.
Jason Merrill started Back Alley in 2007 for one main reason: biking is about community. For Jason, opening a bike shop gave him the opportunity to build a community, develop relationships and make a difference in people's lives by getting them on a bike. It is this core idea that drives the shop today.
Jason began riding bikes as a kid at his Georgia home. After “putting the bike on the shelf” for a few years in college, Jason picked it back up when he moved to West Virginia with AmeriCorps. Little did he know, a “shitty old mountain bike” would rekindle his passion for both riding and working on bikes.
After his work with AmeriCorps, Jason came to the Chapel Hill area and began volunteering at the ReCYCLEry, a non-profit bike repair shop. Bikes would become his career focus as Jason took his skills learned through volunteering and began working in bike shops.
In a seasonal position at a bike shop, Jason realized many bike shops were missing something important. “They were selling bikes and they were fixing bikes but there wasn’t a good relationship between the people in the shop and the community at large.” When October came and his summer bike shop position ended, Jason knew he wanted to open a place of his own.
Armed with a box of tools, a loan from his father-in-law and the knowledge he acquired at previous jobs, Jason set up shop and Back Alley Bikes was born. Today, Jason co-owns the shop with his friends Rob and Cole and employs seven people total. Back Alley has moved locations three times since opening but has remained at its current home in Carrboro since 2013.
Community remains at the core of Back Alley. Through big events, parties and weekly group rides, Jason and the rest of the shop ensure that community needs are met and that as many people as possible are enjoying their lives on bikes. And, of course, they have a blast doing it.