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The Gentrification of the Canadian Motorcycle Shop

July 1, 2016
Motorcycle-Industry

There seems to be a growing trend in Canada’s motorcycle scene thanks to a hipper, more affluent younger crowd

Story by Trevor Marc Hughes

Photos by Trevor Marc Hughes

I doubt I’m writing about breaking news: you’ve likely noticed the trend on your own. But there’s a movement underway in the Canadian motorcycle scene, and how motorcycle shops do business could be affected. What you can be sure of is it’s a phenomenon that is national in scope. Let’s start in my hometown of Vancouver.
To the right, racks overflowed with leather. Riding boots were crowded in above the hangers, some overlapping. Full-length riding suits blended in with textile jackets and seemed to be bending the small retail outlet’s existing display racks.

A hangout space in the _Lifestyle & Motorcycle Boutique_ at International MotorsportsEast Side Re-Rides is a consignment motorcycle-wear store and has been gradually gathering gear for eight years now. The shop’s old space was, as of December 2015, not meeting the demands of its inventory. Owner/operator Elaine Miller has since moved from the outer reaches of Victoria Drive in south Vancouver to a hipper and pricier part of town: 16th Avenue and Main Street.

“We’re bulging at the seams,” Miller said back in December as she packed for the move. When I asked about who her eclectic shop caters to, she rolled off a simple answer. “Our clientele ranges from motorcyclists to people who just like to wear leather jackets.”
She also said the culture and customer base for motorcycle gear is changing. And it would seem that with a growing affluent crowd of young people moving into downtown Vancouver, they are less likely to head out to the suburbs for their leather fix. Miller told me late last year that the right space came up and it seemed the right time to make a move. She anticipated twice as many customers as at their old home.

“The Main Street area is really moving. There are a strong number of single-proprietor stores along Main Street,” she told me. And Miller’s store is not the only one taking advantage of the close proximity to a downtown-
living customer base.

Moto Culture Is Thriving
A lineup of Harley-Davidsons and Triumphs outside the _lifestyle & motrocycle boutiqueThere’s The Shop Vancouver, for instance. Although selling brand-new merchandise from the likes of Roland Sands Design and Saint, and proclaiming itself “Vancouver’s hub for motorcycle culture,” The Shop’s four years on downtown Vancouver’s Columbia Street has also featured community rides, such as that for International Female Ride Day, and events such as the wildly successful Spit ’n’ Shine at Crab Park near Canada Place, where an overwhelming number of motorcycles of all stripes “basked” in the July sun overlooking Burrard Inlet.
“It was close to where we live,” says Tj Schneider, The Shop Vancouver’s owner. “Our friends are in the area, and we are in a pretty dodgy part of town, so we could almost afford it. It was sort of just a perfect fit.”

Does Schneider feel like a trendsetter? After all, he is selling some higher-end motorcycle fashions. Does he feel that he’s tapping into a growing urban market for upscale motorcycle gear?
“It came about because we wanted to create a space that appealed to people like us,” Schneider tells me. “It wasn’t anything about ‘This is a growing market and we can make money.’ Things just sort of fell into place at that time.”

Vancouver’s increase in motorcyclist-lifestyle-friendly shops doesn’t end there. In late 2015, an outlet of International Motorsports, featuring a “lifestyle and motorcycle boutique” filled with Triumph apparel and a showroom dealing in Triumph, Moto Guzzi and Aprilia, moved into a large West 2nd Avenue space.
Then there are more indie shops and full-service places such as Rising Sun Motorcycles, which took the risk of expanding from Vancouver suburb Ladner to Franklin Street near downtown Vancouver. It would seem a growing urban motorcyclist customer base is upon us here on the urban West Coast.

A Jump to the East
Calgary Service AreaIn Montreal, it’s called “La Culture Garage.” Boutique Le 63 has become, not unlike The Shop Vancouver, a hub for this growing trend. It’s a start location for outgoing group rides for the members of “club 59ers,” and the shop is also a centre for retro moto gear. Pitching everything from British-made Halcyon goggles to trendy apparel by Australian bike salvage-and-restore company Deus Ex Machina, Le 63 seems a haven for a tattooed and well-bearded generation enjoying all things retro and vintage. A recent addition to Avenue du Mont-Royal Est, Le 63 is extremely central. Café racers and beard-grooming products also feature quite heavily on its website.

In Toronto, Town Moto’s website speaks volumes about the demographic this urban shop wants to attract. Also selling pricey, upscale brands such as Roland Sands, Biltwell and Arai, initial online imagery features those of the tattooed, bearded and 1970s dual-shock café racer-lifestyle set.

“We opened our doors in May 2012. So we’ve been open for four full years,” says owner/operator Andrew McCracken. “Toronto doesn’t have many motorcycle-related shops or dealerships downtown, so being motorcycling enthusiasts and seeing more and more people starting to ride in Toronto, it seemed like a good business to take a shot on. On top of that, it’s where we live and where we wanted to work.”
About as central as…

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