Andy Gregg's bike furniture--literally furniture made out of bike parts--isn't just unique to the Upper Peninsula. It's unique to the world. In fact, the majority of what Gregg sells isn't to the U.P. at all, it's to California. Right now, he's in talks with people from London, Milan and Boston who are interested in buying his striking furniture, which doesn't look like it's made from parts at all.
"It's cool that it's my job. I communicate with people all over the world," Gregg says.
Though he could make the furniture anywhere, he makes it in a warehouse behind Lakeshore Bike
in Marquette. The shipping costs slightly more than it might somewhere else, but Gregg says he chooses the Upper Peninsula so he can enjoy the outdoors: biking, skiing, snowmobiling are among his pastimes.
Gregg gets materials for his furniture from bike shops or manufacturers. He says he gets some manufacturer's rejects, warranty items or parts they don't want to market. Sometimes he goes to scrap yards and finds usable parts. His favorite thing to use is aluminum and steel rims from bikes. And though how he sculpts them is a "trade secret," Gregg says a hand-powered machine helps him bends the metal.
The result is dynamic and inviting chairs, bar stools and other furniture pieces that are made untraditionally with rim and tire circles and smooth metal lines. The furniture ends up looking like much more than a place to sit; it's like an interactive piece of art.
His interest in bikes comes from riding when he was younger and working as a bike mechanic for a while. He later pursued a degree in photography at Northern Michigan University and made his first chair out of bike parts for a class. His work grew from there.
"A lot of my current designs are the result of commissions from previous customers," Gregg says. "I started out wanting to just make a chair, someone asked me to make a bar stool and someone else asked if I could make a table."
The range of Gregg's material can be found on his website
A lot of the parts Gregg uses are recycled, but he says he doesn't have a problem using new materials. It really comes down to resourcefulness, he says.
"I've been that way for a long time," Gregg says. "People will see a material that wouldn't otherwise be utilized and I like to see what I can do with it."
That interest in exploring and creating is what drives Gregg. His favorite aspects of creating furniture are pretty simple: "I like that I can use my brain," he says. "I like bikes. I like to make stuff. I like to utilize materials."
Lately, his materials aren't limited to bicycles. He has used car doors and windows in the past and is working on furniture made out of motorcycle parts right now. He says that as long as people are interested in the furniture, he hopes to experiment with different unconventional items.
in Marquette has some of Gregg's stools and tables, and they hope to get more, says David Manson, owner of the brewery. Thinking outside of the box is something that Manson understands. Active in biking in Marquette, he and his business partner, Andy Langlois, liked the authentic influence of bikes in their brewery.
"Like most small business owners, thinking outside the norm is not only important but many times necessary for setting yourself apart. Not only does Andy's furniture do this for our business but he is the example of someone doing that in his own business."
One of the reasons they like the furniture, Manson says, is because it appeals to more than just bike enthusiasts.
"I think it appeals to quite a few people; those who appreciate reclaimed items and turned into art, those who like a cool blend of form and function, those who are active bikers, art fans as a collective," he says.
Gregg hopes to serve that community in the future, and his goals for his company are simple.
"I just want to keep making cool stuff and make more of it," Gregg says.
Lucy Hough is a history and journalism student at Northern Michigan University.