Uphill Climb For Framingham Cycling Company Looking To Expand Downtown

FRAMINGHAM – Framingham small business owner Brandale Randolph operates a company, that gives individuals a second chance.

Now, the owner of The 1854 Cycling Company is looking for the City of Framingham to give him a second chance, to allow him to expand his business in downtown.

The 1854 Cycling Company is a premium bicycle and apparel brand inspired by the burning of the U.S. Constitution by abolitionists in protest of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1854. The company employs formerly incarcerated individuals.

Randolph wanted to expand his business in downtown Framingham at 1 Grant Street, located in the Central Business District.

“The reason why we wanted to move into the space at 1 Grant St is because our current business is scattered among three small locations,” explained Randolph. “We use one location for storage of the frames, one location to store bicycles that are ready to ship, and my garage for ‘ sub assembly ‘ and packing.”

Randolph said “due to the rising demand for our bicycles, this process is no longer efficient.”

Over the last eight months, he found “many locations” to possible expand his business in downtown Framingham, “but our hiring of formerly incarcerated people has proven to concern many prospective landlords and current occupants,” said Randolph.

“However, this was not the case with 1 Grant Street,” said Randolph. “They loved our business. and were willing to accept us.”

On Tuesday, March 6, Randolph met with City of Framingham Economic and Development Director Art Robert.

Robert and his staff, according to a City of Framingham email, told Randolph his business “qualifies as an Artisan Production/Creative Enterprise,” which would be allowed in the Central Business Zone.

Under the Framingham Zoning Bylaws, an Artisan Production/Creative Enterprise is defined as “individual and/or small-scale firms that employ 10 or fewer employees, who are involved in the on-site production of hand-fabricated or hand-manufactured parts and/or custom or craft consumer goods through the use of hand tools or small-scale, light mechanical equipment. Artisan production includes apparel manufacturing, confectionery, jewelry making, wood and metal working, pottery and glass making, and equivalents. Showrooms and ancillary sales of goods produced on-premises are allowed.”

However, the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals Administrator interpreted Randolph’s business as “manufacturer – and therefore ineligible for a CB location,” according to another City of Framingham email.

Randolph said he was told by the City’s Economic Development Director “the City’s Building Commissioner confirmed his (ZBA administrator) position that your operation is not allowed in the CB zone. You have a right to appeal to the ZBA, although that would take at least a couple of months, and no guarantee of a favorable outcome.”

Framingham Source contacted the Building Commissioner on Wednesday. He said there was no decision made on 1854 Cycling on Grant Street, as no application had yet to be filed as of 5 p.m. today.

The Commissioner said the company could file an application, and the City would rule. If the company was unhappy with the decision, they could appeal it to the Zoning Board of Appeals. It is unclear,  if the ZBA could grant a variance for use to allow “light manufacturing/assembly” in the Central Business District.

If the ZBA could not grant a variance, the only way the Company could operate on Grant Street would be a Zoning Bylaw change, which would require a hearing by the Planning Board, and a vote by 2/3rd of the 11-member Framingham City Council.

A long process, which Randolph said would deeply affect his business plan to expand, as spring and summer are a high sales season for his company.

Unhappy,  with what he was hearing from the City of Framingham, Randolph took to social media.

“I am furious,” he wrote. “I am strongly considering relocating The 1854 Cycling Company completely out of Framingham. Don’t call me, don’t email me, I don’t want to sit down over coffee. I want it fixed.”

Randolph said he heard from and spoke to District 3 City Councilor Adam Steiner and at-large City Councilor Cheryl Tully Stoll on Wednesday, after his Facebook posting.

Later, Stoll posted on Facebook “I just got off the phone with Brandale and the Framingham Building Commissioner. I’ve asked that Brandale put something in writing sending a clear explanation of his operation to the Building Commissioner. The Building Commissioner agrees that if the operation is as was described to me when he receives the document, that the matter is resolved. It appears that there was some miscommunication about what the company actually does.”

But late Wednesday night, Randolph said Grant Street won’t work and he will have to expand his business outside of downtown Framingham.

“In respect to the solution that was made, I no longer wish to locate the 1854 Cycling Company within the Central Business District,” said Randolph.

“While the opportunity to still sign the lease and move into 1 Grant St, could possibly exist if we were to adapt our business to fit within the guidelines of an artisan creative business, it does not fit within our long-term plans,” said Randolph, who lives in Framingham with his family.

He said his company is “unique because we seek to provide gainful employment that provides transferrable, living wage skills for our employees, many of who are formerly incarcerated. Simply ‘packing’ and extremely light assembly does not meet the potential for impact that we have. If we can provide the kinds of jobs that give our employees a sense of self-worth and the chance to never be arrested or imprisoned again we will change the arc of their lives. This is why we exist. To make a difference, not just bicycles,” said Randolph.

The artisan zoning designation limits employees to 10.

“We may have to grow beyond 10 employees to meet demand. Right now. there are 12 bicycle retail stores across the county that have our bicycles on display. According to our current calculations, if the demand for our bicycles grows beyond 30 per month, we will have to expand to 20 technicians. I would then hire more formerly incarcerated people, which would only magnify our impact,” said Randolph.

Recently, 1854 Cycling Company added a cargo bike to our fleet.

“While this bicycle is also flat packed, it also requires some sub assembly because we plan to sell them to parents, seniors and dog lovers. So far they have been a hit and to have a location where we can not ensure their safety prior to shipping would be catastrophic,” said Randolph.

Finally, “We may have to make our own frames in the future. The current rumors of government tariffs on steel and aluminum imports has sent shock waves through the bicycle industry. As a solution, many of my direct competitors are looking towards making their own bicycle frames. I would like to have the freedom and flexibility to do this is as well, if I must simply to stay in business,” explained Randolph.

On Wednesday alone, Randolph said he received 3 economic development proposal from other communities.

“Some of these offers are amazing,” said Randolph.

Randolph also said he has “been offered a list of prospective places to relocate my company. Unfortunately, many of them are outside of Downtown Framingham.” Although, some of the offers are still within the borders of the City of Framingham.

“My ultimate frustration is that, as both a resident and board member of Downtown Framingham Inc., having to relocate outside of it is disappointing as I have been one of its biggest advocates,” said Randolph.

“I hope that in the future, we as a city can change our zoning laws in order to accommodate a business such as the 1854 Cycling Company,” said Randolph.

Randolph told Source he contacted Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer on Wednesday. As of 8:30 p.m. he had not spoken to her.

Last week, WCVB-TV’s Chronicle interviewed Randolph for a feature on downtown Framingham. Host Anthony Everett from Chronicle also interviewed Mayor Spicer for the report, scheduled to be aired later in March.

Framingham has had a reputation in the past as being unfriendly to business, but on inauguration day, the City’s first-ever Mayor said she planned to change that attitude and announced that “Framingham was open for business.”


Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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