There’s a good chance that you have never heard of the Twin Cities company Dero before, but if you’ve ever locked your bike up to an installation in the City of Minneapolis or on the U of MN Twin Cities campus, chances are you have used one of their products. Last week we stopped by Dero headquarters, just off the University of Minnesota campus, to learn more about the company, their origins, and products for the future.
History: Dero was started in 1995 by the Rolf and Derk Scholtz (brothers) in an apartment above Bullwinkle’s Saloon, in Minneapolis. It stayed put in that location until finally in 2003, the company had outgrown the space and they decided to move to a bigger location. In 2004 they brought their production in-house, and moved to a location in the Minneapolis Seward neighborhood. The move to this location also spawned an ongoing relationship between Dero and the Seward Co-op, allowing for testing of new products (more on that later).
Current Day: From their humble beginning above a bar, Dero has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks in part to innovative design and the boom in bike infrastructure within the past decade in the United States. Earlier this year Dero again moved to a new location, this time to a larger warehouse just off of the University of Minnesota transit way in the shadows of TCF Bank Stadium. The visit to Dero offices allowed us some insight into what it actually takes to get a bike rack (or bike shelter) installed, it all starts with a space and a phone call.
We first met Stephanie Beebe at the CTC Winter Bike to Work Day event in February. When Stephanie, a sales representative for Dero, told us about the company, we were flabbergasted that we had never heard of them before and that they operated just a few miles from where we were. Stephanie and the other members of the sales team at Dero, will be your first stop when you are looking to get bike racks installed. They will take basic information, like the type and size of space you are looking for, how many bikes you want to accommodate and more.
With preliminary plans in hand, any specialty work gets handed off to the engineers at Dero, who are able to design and machine many parts in the shop, located in right in the warehouse. Once a design in completed, all of the production work is done right here in the State of Minnesota. We got to watch some of the action take place during our visit and they can truly do any shape, size or color that a customer might want.
Unique Designs: You name it, the engineers at Dero can design it. We spent some time chatting with Colin Klotzbach of the design department, who told us that while there are a lot of requests for coffee cups and the ubiquitous bicycle design, there are also requests for less common shapes, such as a french press, every animal under the sun, and custom designs based on customer ideas. You know the chicken, fish, apple (etc.) in front of the Global Market in Minneapolis? Yeah, that was Dero. While their specialty designers and craftsman iron workers can shape pretty much anything, they are also required to conform to certain safety standards, after all you wouldn’t want to get a kid’s head stuck in one of those things.
An interesting design that Dero has pioneered and is particularly useful in our state is the bike shelter. With covered bike parking, offering several levels of storage, it makes it a little bit easier to continue biking right through the winter. One special double-decker version, the Kolo Shelter, is currently in use on the Minneapolis Augsburg campus and has an assisted lift upper deck, so you can fit more bikes, into less space.
The Future: Dero has sold bike racks across the country and as far away as Dubai, making their business truly international. Later this year, co-founder Rolf Scholtz will accompany Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybek on a trade mission to Sweden showing off what they have to offer.
The most intriguing thing that we saw on our visit to Dero was the ZAP system something that current CEO Hans Steege believes will help get people out of cars and onto bikes. In fact, the system was so intriguing, that we are giving it a post of its own. Check back soon for Part II of our visit to Dero, when we focus entirely on the new ZAP system!
Special thanks to Stephanie for making this visit possible, also to Hans Steege, Colin Klotzbach, Mark Skonie, Anthony Spaay and Lyndon Yang for taking time away from their day to talk to us, enjoy the pictures.
Know of a Twin Cities cycling company that we should visit? Drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org