Green Fleet Hub can’t afford to be subtle.
The space the bike shop occupies could be easily mistaken as someone else’s garage without its logo plastered on its Edgehill Village exterior.
The low-profile white brick building next to a recently-built development takes up a few hundred square feet at best.
But the tiny space is bigger than it gets credit for.
The garage handles bike tours and repairs, plus a courier service. It also houses a store with bikes, helmets and even shelves of clothes for sale.
Owner Austin Bauman said all of Green Fleet’s elements are like moving parts of a wheel all coming back to a central point – a hub.
“They’re different, but they support each other,” he said.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University with a music degree, Bauman, now 28, found a passion in cycling. He was working in real estate in 2009 when he thought some of the paperwork delivered from different firms around town could be sent quicker on two wheels instead of four.
From there, Bauman started Green Fleet Messengers, a bike courier service working with dozens of law, music and real estate firms around the city.
Even as the couriers now handle 40-80 calls each day, the service isn’t visible at the Edgehill Village garage, said Andrew Clore, the service’s dispatcher and the hub’s self-proclaimed chancellor of communications. Other than a desk and computer responsible for courier assignments, the entire operation is performed remotely through smart phones.
“People wouldn’t even know we have this here,” Clore said. “We’ve hidden it in plain sight… It’s not necessarily something we want to push in everybody’s face.”
Even if Green Fleet wanted to openly promote the service, it doesn’t have the room to do it.
One afternoon, the store’s two desks were lined with boxes of bicycles waiting to be put together. As a repairman started assembling one of the bikes, a couple came in wanting to know the price of some used bikes. Bauman, doubling as the dispatcher for the moment, stopped his work and dodged a mound of bikes to quickly give a quote.
The organized chaos enveloping the store hasn’t always been so prevalent. In the past year, Green Fleet made major expansions as it began to sell, rent and repair bikes on site and developed a cycling tour program.
Click on this image to go to an interactive timeline of the history of the Green Fleet Hub.
While Bauman never expected his business to become what it has, he said an emerging small business must be adaptive.
“I just wanted it to be able to work,” he said. “If you don’t really have expectations going into things, they can become a lot easier.”
His lack of expectations allowed several of the shop’s best elements, including its workplace mood, to develop organically.
“It’s a dynamic, that’s for sure,” Clore said. “It’s a little shop family.”
Their common passion for cycling also fuels the store’s community-like environment, Bauman said.
“For us, it’s part of our work and our play and everything that we do,” he said.
“Everything” now includes a bike tour around Music City.
On a typical tour morning, tourists meet outside the shop, talk and test their rented bikes. The riders come from across the country and around the world. Before a specific ride, tourists from Baltimore, Columbus and Atlanta wanted to see the city on two wheels. One couple was there on a long weekend trip, while four other women were gearing up to ride as part of an annual wives-only vacation.
Jason Haggard, one of the Hub’s first couriers and tour guides, took the group of riders on the tour. The routes were ones he and Bauman began planning out in February as they tried to create routes and talking points for a tour not already offered on bus or foot.
“It was something different that wasn’t being done in Nashville,” he said.
On the tour, the group went from Edgehill Village to Nashville landmarks like the Ryman Auditorium and Music Row, but also hit places not frequented by tourists like the Nashville Farmer’s Market and the historic city courthouse.
Bauman said the tour’s unique perspective and customizable trips has led more and more people to sign up for them, even as the summer tourist season ended.
“The tours have taken off like a rocket,” Haggard said. “We’ve been really highly rated on Tripadvisor and we’re really proud of the amount of tours we got so quickly.”
As rapidly as Greet Fleet has grown in the past 12 months, Bauman still has further growth in mind. He’d eventually like to take the tours and bike shop to a larger space closer to downtown Nashville.
While moving would take the business away from the old brick garage, Bauman said the place’s atmosphere would be reflected wherever the pieces of Green Fleet end up.
If he gets his way, Green Fleet will become a community center for both local bikers and Nashville as a whole.
“We want to be a one-stop shop for people to get into biking so they can come in and take it from there,” he said.