On the corner of Division and Fifth street, sits a bike store, and a cafe which are part of the same shop. The store has couches, tables, magazines, a big old cuddly dog, and, of course, a lot of bikes. The cafe has crepes, a welcoming staff, lemonade, and the dog might wander in too.
“Living in the cities, Northfield was my family’s little escape pod,” said Greg Neis, co-owner and operator of Farmstead Bikes, in a written interview with The Olaf Messenger. “My son and I would bike down though town and across to the Nerstrand State Woods and flip stones, then go downtown to get ice cream before biking back. Northfield has always been special.”
Farmstead, however, didn’t start in Northfield. Neis and partners established Farmstead Bike & Ski in southern Minneapolis nine years ago. The store’s motto is to “welcome anyone, regardless of skill level, knowledge level, race, gender, or bike-craziness,” said Neis in a written interview with The Olaf Messenger. The philosophy followed Farmstead into Northfield when they put down roots in 2021.
Since moving into town, he and his wife, who are co-owners and operators, plan to dig deeper roots. “[I have felt an] overwhelming sense of support from the city,” said Neis in a written interview with The Olaf Messenger. “There isn’t really a shop servicing bikes and skis for this region of Minnesota. Gear West and Pioneer Midwest in the cities are fantastic shops with a great staff, but they’re a long drive away for residents of Northfield, Dundas, or Dennison. We want to be the intermediary between those big shops and towns that have nothing. We hope Farmstead can become that hub of outdoor recreation.”
Farmstead also offers kayak and paddleboard rentals to float the Cannon River throughout the summer. Aside from the recreation gear, Farmstead hosts a fully staffed cafe and seating area, the Raven’s Nest. The cafe has a full hot and cold drink menu, as well as crepes made from scratch, using locally sourced ingredients. Raven’s Nest accepts Ole Dollars as a form of payment.
Farmstead is here not only to provide for the Northfield community, but for both colleges across the river. For instance, in collaboration with both St. Olaf and Carelton, Neis helped start the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference. It’s a gateway for bikers to compete in regional and national championships — competitions they were previously ineligible for. “We really are doing a lot to take care of student needs. We want this to be a place where people can come and hang out, and have a study group or just talk,” said Neis in a written interview with The Olaf Messenger. Needless to say, Neis and all the staff at Farmstead are happy to be settled in a college town.