By Melissa Pocek
In his 10 years in the bike business Marty Walsh has seen it all — the good, the bad and the rusty.
Walsh’s two companies located in a warehouse in the Waterfront perform in complementary roles: GeekHouse builds custom bikes while the sister company, Sugar Coat, restores them with a paint-like process called powder coat.
Walsh founded Geekhouse bikes in 2002, but his passion for biking started at an early age. At 16, he started work at a neighborhood bike shop called Landry’s Bicycles in Westborough. He worked his way from sales to being a store manager and picked up advanced knowledge about bike manufacturing before wanting to start his own bike company.
“I used to sketch bike frame designs on anything I could get my hands on including bar napkins.” said Walsh. As an avid cyclist in the bike racing community, Walsh paired up with mechanical engineers he met through racing to build out his designs. In the beginning the frames were outsourced, but he quickly realized that he wanted to build his own.
With so much of the job involving mechanics and with a focus on restoration, Walsh went beyond just what is available, a new type of bike company emerged — the kind that, according to their website, is creating, “nothing short but a dream ride.”
Walsh spent two years under the wing of Mike Flanigan of ANT (Alternative Needs Transportation). In this apprenticeship, he learned everything he needed to know about building bikes. He secured funding through the state and hired on members of his team.
Now, two years since his apprenticeship, Geekhouse is a team of three with bicyclist enthusiast Brad Smith who is in charge of Sugarcoat, the powder coat extension, and Shane Jordan who deals with office management.
Geekhouse builds everything by hand when possible, but when they can't the team sources as much from the United States as possible. “We take made in the USA very seriously,” said Walsh.
Green ethos is also important to Geekhouse. The powder coat process they use is better for the environment than regular paint. “The paint comes in a dry powder form and we cook it up to 400 degrees,” said Walsh. “There are no volatile chemicals and it is a much more durable bond. We hold green business practices in high esteem.”
Powder coat colors come in a variety of options, “We have 40 colors we like using and can get over 6500 colors from our vendors,” said Marsh. The rainbow of choices for bikers appeals to both sexes and generally customers are in their twenties and thirties. However, a lot of older customers have been interested in the Sugar Coat services recently.
Now in its second year, Sugar Coat brings Boston cyclists not just bright colored bikes, but also sparkle coat. “This is one of the coolest finishes,” said Walsh. It comes in a variety of colors from gold sparkle, silver, to multicolor. “It makes the bike pop!”
As the temperature continues to rise, and more Bostonians switch from driving to biking, the temptation to get wintery rusted bikes restored becomes more and more appealing. “Business during the summer is really steady,” said Walsh.
Among the lessons Walsh has learned while running GeekHouse in Boston, this stands out: It can be tough work to restore a classic bike to good-as-new gleam, but it isn’t impossible. “A little bit of elbow grease and a lot of steel wool can do wonders for an old bicycle.” Walsh said.
Photo by Geekhousebikes (Flickr)
About Melissa -- Melissa is a Boston-based writer and has covered national issues, local events, and professional profiles. She admits proudly that her interests, such as frequent attendance of music festivals, writing about new media and technology, and worldwide sampling of regional foods and wine, extend into a passion that fuels her writing. Twitter: @melissapocek
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