Celebrating Motorcycling’s Small Business Owners

 

A few years back, I needed a rear tire for my big Yamaha Royal Star, and planned on taking it to a local Yamaha dealership I’ve used before. I happened upon a small privately owned shop behind a trophy store, called Melton Trike & Cycle Works, and dropped in to check it out. Turned out, David Melton, the “proprietor”, had read my scribblings across several motorcycle publications over the years, and I enjoyed a friendly conversation with him. He’s a former tech for several large moto dealerships in the Atlanta area, who launched out on his own some years back. I decided to bring my bike to David, and let him do my tire mount and balance. He installed it while I waited, chatting me up all the while, and at a price better than the local dealership would have done. I’ve been recommending Melton’s Trike & Cycle Works to my riding friends ever since.

I became acquainted with the young fellas of Flying Brothers Motorcycle Shop a couple of years ago, at a local bike night. Skilled, enthusiastic, and eager to build a successful business model of a “Jiffy Lube” style motorcycle shop, whereby riders can bring their bikes for simple maintenance, service intervals and tire swaps, Jake and Chris are now truly flying. With their move toward “in and out in a day” service, they are finding more work than they can handle. They gave my Triumph Bonneville a solid service last Fall before our big “Appalachian Playground” trip, with fresh oil/filter, brake flush, chain adjust and lube, brake cable and throttle freeplay tweak, and new front tire, all in an afternoon. I’m proud of these young bucks, proud to support them, and proud to call them my friends.

Hanging with the Flying Bros, as they prep my Bonney for a road trip. Love these guys.

While the large dealerships have so much to offer, not only in bikes, but in apparel, accessories, parts, and great service, I admire and applaud the small shops, the family and individually owned establishments, for their passion, dedication, and personalized attention to detail. The big enterprises get all the attention, but these “Little Men” as Alan Jackson once immortalized in song, are in many respects the backbone of American motorcycling, and certainly of our national economy. My father, before giving up riding in 2019, always carried his ’03 Harley Heritage to a small one-man shop in Sparta, Georgia, owned by Mike, a retired certified H-D mechanic, when he needed service or parts. They became good friends, and Pops completely trusted his bike to Mike. “I’ll never take my Harley to anyone but Mike,” Pops once declared.

In spite of COVID last year and now into this new one, the motorcycle industry has experienced huge gains, as more people have chosen to “social distance” on two wheels. Hope abounds for the future of our sport, our passion. The older generation of riders is passing on the love of motorcycles to a new generation, and they are already shaping the future of motorcycling. As another example, check out our story on Brother Moto, a cool coffee and bikes joint in downtown Atlanta. This is all especially good for the “privateers”, the small shops like David Melton’s and the Flying Brothers boys, as well as the countless other repair, paint, custom, and restoration shops dotting our great land. I have many friends at large, established brand dealerships, and everyone I know at these are passionate motorcycle enthusiasts themselves. But the private “mom & pop shops” hold a special place in my heart, and I plan to encourage and support them with my business whenever I can. My grandfather ran a garage in the (then) small town of Medfield, Mass. throughout the 1930s-60s, wrenching on everything from early motorcycles to boat motors, automobiles to tractors. I guess it’s in my blood, however marginally skilled I personally might be with a wrench.

Gramps MacKenney, 2nd from right in the back, long sleeve white shirt, in front of his shop with one of the many ball teams he sponsored over the years. If it ran petrol, my gramps could wrench on it.

My friend Kevin Baxter is one of the most trusted names in custom V-Twin engine builds and tuning in America, and has taught his techniques in seminars across the country and around the globe. Yet his humble shop, Baxter’s Garage/Pro Twin Performance, is located outside the small country town of Auburn, Georgia, down a side street near a railroad track. Kevin and his crew are among the kindest, big-hearted bunch of guys I’ve ever met, who not only passionately love motorcycling, but actively “love their neighbors”. Via local benefits, food/clothing drives, and recently being the first shop in Georgia to partner with a local elementary school to implement the national Strider “All Kids Bike” initiative to get children active and on two wheels again, this small moto enterprise is making a huge difference in so many lives. Oh, and Kevin’s also a gifted writer and storyteller who’s written for Road Dirt on more than a few occasions.

Kevin strolling through his shop on a Saturday morning, surveying the many projects he is entrusted with.

So here’s a big shout-out and salute to all the “Little Guys”, those small business owners, passionate and personable men and women, who are the backbone, heart and soul of motorcycling. You keep us on the road. We applaud you, support you, and appreciate you.

May you grow and prosper in 2021 and beyond.

Rob

*Got a favorite local shop in your neck of the woods? Give them a shout-out in the comments below!

 

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