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Summer Thymes’ salmon bike rack brings awareness to environmental issues

The Curious Forge members and Summer Thymes Bakery & Deli owners stand with the salmon bike racks in front of the restaurant. Pictured from left to right are Dugo Nore, Kara Asilanis, Steve Scott, Liam Ellerby, Amy and Chamba Cooke.
Ivan Natividad/ inatividad@theunion.com |

In an attempt to bring awareness to the local environment and as a way to encourage their customers to ride bikes, Summer Thymes Bakery & Deli installed bike racks shaped like salmon into its parking lot Monday morning.

“It seemed to us that the bike rack could make several statements,” owner Amy Cooke said.

“To foster bicycle use as green transportation, to raise awareness about salmon in our watershed, and to encourage the enjoyment of art as practical and useful.”



Cooke said Summer Thymes, located on the 200 block of Colfax Avenue in Grass Valley, tries to be as green as it can, and composts all its kitchen waste, recycles, and uses all LED lightbulbs, and compostable plastics in its to-go containers.

“Just reducing the amount of carbon put off by petroleum fuels, we’re trying to support biking and walking as transportation rather than getting in our cars for short distances.”
Amy Cooke
Owner of Summer Thymes Bakery & Deli

The bakery and deli has what she calls a “carbon credit card,” where employees give customers stamps that can lead to free baked goods and products, if they walk or ride their bike to the restaurant.




“We call it giving credit where credit’s due,” Cooke said. “Just reducing the amount of carbon put off by petroleum fuels, we’re trying to support biking and walking as transportation rather than getting in our cars for short distances.”

The idea for the bike rack came from Ed Hensley, a local photographer and longtime customer of Summer Thymes. Hensley said he came up with the bike rack after Cooke asked him for suggestions on how to improve the restaurant.

“I had ridden my bike over to the old place, and there wasn’t a bike rack,” Hensley said. “So I just said how about a bike rack.”

Hensley contacted The Curious Forge, a members-based do-it-yourself group that creates reused and repurposed art, and suggested making a bike rack for the restaurant as an art piece. After looking at several ideas, the nonprofit group built a customized bike rack in the shape of five salmon arching out of the pavement.

“This project was really good in that we had a lot of new people, beginners in the Forge, so we got to teach them welding and grinding and design skills,” The Curious Forge founder and board member Liam Ellerby said. “So sharing and empowering the members with this was a great first project for some people. And just supporting proprietors that like public art.”

Corisa Cobden, owner of Green Light Restoration, a group of local artists creating projects from repurposed materials, said that the salmon bike rack is a welcome addition to the area’s burgeoning art district.

“We’re going to be making Colfax Avenue its own district and what we would like to see here is essentially an outdoor art gallery,” Cobden said. “That can take place in different forms, the bike rack is a perfect example, along with murals on buildings, sculptures, and other installations that can happen throughout the year.”

Sierra Streams, a watershed monitoring, research, and restoration group based in Nevada City, partnered with Summer Thymes in bringing the bike racks to the restaurant, said development director Lisa Frankel.

“Any time that merchants like Summer Thymes really care about something like this and put out effort as a merchant who’s really reaching out into a very wide community, much wider than what we can access as a small nonprofit organization, it just kind of brings together many more pieces of the community here to raise awareness,” Frankel said. “It gives us an opportunity for our mission and efforts to be more widely dispersed in the community.”

On Aug. 24, Sierra Streams will hold a workshop at Summer Thymes, geared toward kids, educating them on the journey of the salmon and the watershed.

“The salmon are such a connecting force in our watershed, they start their lives in the Yuba watershed, which this community is so connected to,” Sierra Streams Education Coordinator Kelly Hickman said. “They are an amazing and charismatic animal that everyone identifies with and wants to protect. So I think using the salmon in a place where we feel so connected to our watershed is a very powerful image.”

Summer Thymes co-owner Chamba Cooke said that providing accessible art for their customers with a message is a win-win.

“It’s about the environment,” Chamba Cooke said. “The more people that get on bikes, the less people are in cars. For us, it’s all part of the same picture. We do this out of concern for the world and the well-being of the community. For me it’s an of-course. I wouldn’t want to run a business that couldn’t do that, if I had to not do that to make money, I wouldn’t want the business.”

Amy Cooke says that the bike rack represents her vision of a business that is environmentally conscious, and said that Summer Thymes is currently in the process of becoming a “B Corp,” a corporation that meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance and transparency.

“Often we think about corporations being about the bottom line and making money,” Amy Cooke said. “And what a B Corp is, it’s a middle ground between a nonprofit and a for-profit. It’s really about a corporation whose stated goals are about the benefit to a community. It’s about reframing and relooking at what business is, rather than just looking at money, it’s about being of benefit to everybody.”

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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