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August 27, 2014

Townsend offers guests a spin on Shinola bikes

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Seabronetta Barr, with The Townsend Hotel’s guest services department, stands by one of two Shinola bicycles the hotel offers for guests to enjoy.

BIRMINGHAM — For some time now, the city of Birmingham’s motto has been “a walkable community.” But thanks to a new partnership downtown, biking is an acceptable alternative.

The Townsend Hotel recently announced that just over a month ago, it quietly launched a pilot program to rent out bicycles to guests who would like to tour the town on two wheels. After weeks of developing a relationship with Detroit-based bike maker Shinola, which displayed its upscale bicycles in the hotel’s tea lobby earlier this year, the two decided to offer rides to guests as an additional concierge amenity.

“It’s a service that we wanted to make available to our guests. Birmingham is such a cute little walkable town, we thought why not offer bikes for our guests to check it out even further?” said Lynette Zebrowski, chief concierge at The Townsend Hotel. “And they’re impressive bikes. A lot of people just love the fact that they’re made in Detroit. Whether they rented them out or not, quite a few have inquired about them and wanted directions and information to go to Shinola itself so they can check out the store.”

Shinola opened its doors in Detroit just a few years ago, promoting itself as a maker of quality luxury goods, including watches, leather items, journals, bikes and more. Its products have become a hit with trendy shoppers across the country, especially those attracted to Detroit brands. Zebrowski said that guests have been drawn to the bike service largely for the Shinola name, so far. A representative of Shinola could not be reached for comment.

Currently, the hotel has two bikes available: the Runwell and the Bixby. With a rental, helmets and bike locks are included, as well as maps of suggested 2- and 5-mile trails that showcase the best of Birmingham’s scenic neighborhoods. In true concierge style, bottled water and other goodies come with the rental package.

So far, about five people in about a month or so have taken advantage of the rental service, which will run Townsend guests $15 for a half hour, $25 an hour or $125 for a day. Zebrowski said the hotel has toyed with the idea of acquiring more bikes and maybe even making them available to non-guests, but those options will be discussed in the future if the program continues to be successful.

One person likely rooting for the program to be a hit is John Heiney, executive director of the Birmingham Principal Shopping District, as the bikes will bring hotel guests out of their rooms and out to the streets, where Birmingham’s retailers and restaurants are waiting.

“I think this is a fun and innovative service to offer guests. We look forward to seeing the bikes in town soon,” he said. “Anytime you encourage people to visit downtown, or you create an attraction like this, it benefits everyone.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.