Five years ago, Bicycle Nomad Cafe owner Erick Cedeño was just that: a nomad.
Cedeño traveled the United States and beyond on his bike using nothing but maps to guide him. He doesn’t travel with music, either.
“I only travel with my thoughts,” he said.
Some of his biggest trips include his journey from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico. He also decided to bike the path of the Underground Railroad from New Orleans to Niagara Falls, Canada.
Somewhere in the vast expanse of miles, came the idea to open the Bicycle Nomad Cafe. In October 2015, Cedeño put the brakes on his bike in downtown Phoenix and Bicycle Nomad Cafe was born – tucked into the Velo Bike Shop.
“I was looking for a place I could call home,” Cedeño said. “I didn’t have a community as a nomad. I was part of everything.”
The signature quality of the Bicycle Nomad Cafe is their eccentric drink menu.
“The name ‘Nomad’ brings ideas from different places,” he said.
Their house drink is the “Cocospresso,” where espresso is made with Thai coconut water and served cold inside a coconut. Unlike other types of espresso, this drink is rich and sweet, taking the edge off the shot.
Cedeño discovered the Cocospresso in Jamaica, when he noticed a man drinking out of a coconut and asked him what it was.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I tried it and I fell in love with it.”
Calling all college students
Even though it’s so close to Arizona State University’s downtown campus, Bicycle Nomad Cafe doesn’t have as much traffic from college students.
Cedeño said he figured downtown’s burgeoning coffee-shop scene puts up a lot of competition. He said he would love more college students to become part of his customer population as well.
“Competition is good,” he explained. “As long as people come in and we leave them happy, that is all we can do.”
Cedeño said he thinks students could benefit from slowing down and being in the moment, which is a big message at Bicycle Nomad Cafe. He pointed out the three words painted on the floor of the cafe: “Be here now.”
He compared cycling to being a freshman in college, looking ahead to the next four years and how it can be overwhelming if people look at the whole picture at once.
“It’s the same thing with traveling by bicycle, you just go step by step,” Cedeño said.
Conversations + Coffee
He said he wanted to create a community within the bike shop and run a cafe where not just coffee is brewed, but conversations, too.
“Coffee and the bicycle go way back,” he said, describing the Tour de France in the early 1900s, where cyclists would stop to refuel and converse with other participants before continuing the race.
Cedeño said starting a business and beginning this new chapter in his life has showed him how strong he can be.
He said he is elated to have had the Bicycle Nomad Cafe open for three years and counting, and looks forward to building the community in the future.
This story originally appeared on the Downtown Grounds website, a class project website by students in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.