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Gap Goes PUBLIC with Pop-Up Bike Shop at San Francisco Flagship


(Courtesy PUBLIC and James Mueller Photography)

Since resolving its brand identity crisis, Gap has been busy expanding its horizons. In recent weeks, the mega-retailer has opened its first wholly-owned stores in China (two in Beijing, two in Shanghai) and Italy (on Milan’s Corso Vittorio Emanuele) and announced plans to enter South America next fall. But the Gap store we’re most excited about is a temporary outlet right down the road from the company’s San Francisco HQ. It’s a seasonal pop-up shop (above) that features the covetable steel-framed bikes and gear of PUBLIC, the enterprise started in May by Design Within Reach founder Rob Forbes.

“I’ve been watching the growth of city bikes in Europe for almost ten years and seeing the changes here, such as the Bloomberg initiatives in New York,” Forbes told us. “I’m passionate about urban design and mobility, and want to help us get over our car addiction.” And so PUBLIC was born. The San Francisco-based company specializes in practical bikes designed for cities. Its classically styled models come in a growing range of gorgeous hues—a tangerine inspired by the ’68 Vespa that is a fixture in the PUBLIC offices, a pale blue purloined from a vintage Porsche—and boast frames that are guaranteed for life and “ride like butter.”

Word of snazzy urban bikes travels fast in the Bay Area, so it was only a matter of time before Gap came calling. “Their team visited our South Park space, liked our vibe, and asked if we’d work with them on the pop-up,” explained Forbes. “They are developing a bike share program with their staff also, and we align with their internal mission.” The deal was sealed by PUBLIC’s new more affordable models (the recently launched Public A7 and J7 each sell for $495, compared to the $550 to $890 price range of other models) and its quirky assortment of non-bike merchandise, including pretty air pumps, art, antimicrobial striped socks, and wooden deer heads.

Forbes describes the pop-up shop, which will be open through the end of January at Gap’s San Francisco flagship on Market Street, as a mix of “rustic wood floors and clean walls and bikes of lickable colors.” And for customers who’d rather not ride their purchases home, there are desks imbedded with iPads for ordering PUBLIC products online. With the holidays around the corner, we asked Forbes for advice on what to put under the tree for the design-savvy bike enthusiast. “Definitely a Belgian Moose Bust,” he said, before offering another stimulating option. “Actually, we’re now selling the best espresso machine in the world. There is not a biker alive that does not have a serious coffee habit.”

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