Where caffeine and cycling collide

Cars-R-Coffins revolves around bikes but is more than just a shop

Tom “Hurl” Everson sketched an idea for a logo on a bar napkin two decades ago. Today, that simple design — a four-wheeled coffin — has unwittingly led to a business.

Everson’s Cars-R-Coffins (CRC), has taken on a number of incarnations: It started as a fan zine, turned into T-shirt business and has since become a specialized bike shop/coffee bar in Lyn-Lake.

“That was a total coup,” Everson said of the logo’s initial popularity among the bicycle-riding underground. “It was unplanned, unexpected, but it worked in my favor.”

Hurl, as he is known, said he has spotted his Cars-R-Coffins logo on shirts and storefronts from San Francisco to SoHo. The trademark can also be found tattooed on his left forearm, complete with orange flames.

The Bismarck, N.D., native said he was raised on a steady diet of bicycles and punk rock. It was there, as a 12-year-old, that he first absorbed punk songs offered by U.K. rockers the “Sex Pistols” and listened to “X” when he wasn’t riding BMX (bicycle motocross). Still today, his blog affectionately quotes the so-called Godfather of Punk: Iggy Pop.

Everson, 40,  has now — like Pop — become an elder statesman of sorts among the Minneapolis bike community, which he steadfastly serves as a fair repairman and coffee slinger at CRC Coffee Bar and Cykel Shop, 3346 Lyndale Ave.

But don’t let the Cars-R-Coffins handle give you the wrong idea about the man. While he hasn’t owned a car since 2003, he’s not anti-car; he just feels more comfortable on a bike.

“Riding a bike is freedom,” he said. “I’m not anti-car; I’m not some zealot. I don’t necessarily ride my bike because it’s good for the environment. I ride it because it’s good for me.”

By his count, Hurl, which is actually a derivation of his initial college nickname, “Earl” — owns 17 bicycles, with several more in progress. However, he recently spoke to the Southwest Journal while seated on his main cycle — a contemporary Surly Crosscheck.

Now primarily a distance rider, Hurl has trekked across much of the United States in addition to foreign locales, including a bike tour of Cambodia and Vietnam. Lately, though, he prefers to begin a ride at his Bryn Mawr home without an agenda, except maybe to get lost.

“I love long, meandering rides into the country, just to go for it,” he said.

However, it was the attraction to Minneapolis’ vibrant music scene that kept him in the city, where he has worked in the bike industry, in varying forms, for the last 20 years.

Following the death of his father, Everson decided to open CRC in February 2006 and recently expanded repair operations to a garage behind the shop.

“The first four-to-six months, I was working all day, every day, by myself,” Hurl said. “It’s a grind.”

Eventually, he added some part-time help, including the late Rachel Dow, who died last January biking near the Mississippi River.

Dow’s death, and those of other more recent cyclists on city streets, has no doubt made Everson and others in the biking community take stock of cycling safety issues. His shop provides some informational resources; however, he maintains there must be more education, and more tolerance, between bikers and drivers alike.

In true community style, Hurl relies almost solely on local businesses and a staff of five to keep CRC running.

“We serve [French Roast] Peace Coffee, which is delivered only by bicycle,” Hurl said, “so that was a no-brainer.”

CRC is, inevitably, a stop along numerous bike excursions including the Stupor Bowl and the Freedom Ride, and acts as a centralized hub for bikers peeling off bike-heavy Bryant Avenue.

But what separates the shop from the rest of the pack in Southwest, he said, is its focus on repairing, rehabbing and selling vintage bikes. Quality vintage bikes at a fair price.

CRC’s understated façade is a reflection of its soft-spoken owner. A retractable, clear garage door marks the entryway. While the space is both clean and inviting, a simple block-letter sign out front marked “coffee” is the only indication it is a business at all.

“That was intentional,” Hurl said.

Once bikes are locked on the convenient sidewalk racks, patrons can surf the web and catch a little coffee buzz while seated near vintage cycles which hang from the ceiling and wall.

A number of items on the choice menu have a bit of kick, hence there is no decaf coffee served at CRC. The shop also offers an obscure, and potent, South Carolina ginger ale known as Blenheim. On a recent October day, the garage door was open — and customers could be seen perusing CRC’s fairly extensive in-house bicycle library while waiting in line.

“If we can open people’s eyes to different publications, that’s great,” said Hurl, who has a degree in English literature and is eyeing a return to independent bike journalism.

In the meantime, he has plans to build on the growing success of the Cars-R-Coffins logo. In February, he will unveil limited-edition CRC cycling shoes and, no doubt, celebrate the small shop’s third anniversary.

But don’t believe for one second a little success has gone to his head.

When asked what he will do next, the answer was very punk.

“World domination,” he said with a wry smile.

Reach Steve Pease at [email protected].