Lamar Timmins has long been a biker, but it was a stint as a bicycle tour guide in Germany that furthered his appreciation for the world of biking.
“That [Germany] is where I really started to understand biking as a way of life and a means of transportation,” Lamar says.
Upon his return to Montreal, his European adventure inspired him to launch a business that merged two different cultures. “It’s sort of a European inspiration and also in Australia, it’s quite common to find a cafe with something else like a bookstore or a vintage store. Montreal has such a great coffee culture and a great bike culture so it just made sense to put the two together,” Lamar says.
In January of 2013, he teamed up with his mother, Fiona Chai, and opened Allo Vélo, a bike boutique and cafe located in St-Henri.
Before opening Allo Vélo, Lamar had previously ventured into the world of fashion. When he was 18 years old, he launched his own clothing line and did screen printing. He worked with retailers such as American Apparel. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Carleton University.
He’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but he especially enjoys the challenges found in the biking industry.
Allo Vélo carries mainly European import bikes and are also very big on Cargo bikes. It’s a huge market in Europe, but it’s still only a niche market in Montreal, Lamar explains.
“We’re at the forefront [of the industry in Canada] and really trying to push these products,” he says.
He and his mom are really proud of the brands of bikes they carry and are constantly trying to stay ahead of the industry.
“It’s a fun industry to be in because it’s just constantly growing [...] we’re really trying to find ways to step ahead and be unique,” Lamar says.
Lamar says working with his mom is fun, but there are always some challenges.
“We share common ideas and I think we want to see things happen the same way, so we’re working together step by step.”
Furthermore, a bonus is that they both enjoy testing new products to discover first hand if the bikes and accessories are practical and of good quality for their clients.
They both use their strengths to better the business the best way they can. Fiona runs the daily tasks around the cafe and boutique, while Lamar acts more as the face of the business and runs the online store.
Lamar had previous experience with bikes, but it’s Fiona who looked into what type of coffee and coffee machine they should bring into their cafe business.
Besides selling bikes and bike accessories, they have a mechanic’s room where a mechanic does bike repairs and other bike services. In the summer, they also do Cargo bike rentals, which has become very popular as it is an all inclusive family friendly activity.
While they are closed during the winter, their online store vélolifestyle.com continues to service Montreal and all of Canada.