The Maker: Pam Dorr
Bamboo is growing wild, merely a block away from Main Street.
Behind a storefront on Main Street, it’s being used to make bikes.
Welcome to Greensboro, in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt. The area is known for its creative solutions to everyday problems. By doing just that, entrepreneur Pam Dorr and HERObike are putting Greensboro on the map.
HERObike might look like any other store on Main Street, but the inside makes the phrase “out of the box” come to mind. Students and workers fasten bamboo rods to steel and aluminum joints, chains and tires. To the side, stacks of bamboo in different sizes and circumferences will end up on a bike rolling down a hill somewhere on this planet.
Dorr was a designer with Victoria’s Secret in San Francisco when she visited Greensboro for the first time in 2003. She fell in love with the rural town and never left. At the time, bamboo was considered a nuisance, and the economy was struggling and barely hanging on. Dorr came up with a way to address both issues.
“The HERO project aims to end rural poverty in the area. It was formed in 1994 by some folks who wanted to provide job training, affordable housing and economic development to the folks here. HERO now owns several small businesses creating many jobs, and HERObike is one of those businesses,” Dorr said.
The staff at HERObike holds workshops where people can build their own bikes. They teach and guide the students through all steps of the process, from harvesting the bamboo to riding out on their new bikes. The website has a schedule of their upcoming workshops.
“We started with bamboo because we have a lot of it in our community. Now we harvest it a block away and build bikes with it,” Dorr said. “It’s a very carbon-neutral process. The bamboo is as strong as a steel-framed bike as long as it’s cared for and not left in the sun. The bike will give you years of great wear – it’s a nice ‘around town’ bike.”
The bikes range in price from $400 up to about $2,500, depending on the features.
“We are launching a new kid’s bike. At our small custom shop, we aim to build seven bikes a month. We can cover our expenses that way,” Dorr said. “In addition to several businesses along Main Street, HERO is now building a school.”
HERObike continues to operate “out of the box” by helping a struggling economy in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt.
The Product: Bamboo bikes.
Take Home: A ready-made bamboo bike, or sign up to make your own.
HERObike, 1310 Main St., Greensboro, AL 36744