Brooklyn, N.y., Apr. 12 — Five years ago, Elisa Seeger, co-owner of Indian Larry Motorcycles with her husband Bob Seeger, threw open the doors to Genuine Motorworks. I attended the grand opening of the new store on April 18, 2009, marveling at the bravery of anyone opening a new business in those challenging economic times. But here we are, five years later, with the store not only surviving, but thriving. And tonight, we were here to celebrate its success.
Genuine Motorworks features not only all American-made apparel, helmets, jewelry and accessories, but also an art gallery with rotating exhibits. When I arrived around 7:30 p.m., the party was just starting, with a line of bikes parked along the curb, the warehouse doors flung open and friends and customers of the Seegers were enjoying adult beverages with a DJ spinning tunes in the background. Helping celebrate was artist Darren McKeag visiting from Grinnell, Iowa, where his tattoo shop, Slingin’ Ink Tattoos, is located. Darren is a talented multimedia artist, and his “Scarred for Life” exhibit inside the store featured “object art” such as beautifully painted skateboards, helmets, a gas tank and other types of moto art: an old car radiator beautified with Bondo and paint, and the top half of a 30’s Ford roadster passenger door, beautifully and intricately painted. Darren also designed the limited edition 5th Anniversary shirts that were available. And the talented tattoo artist did my most recent ink during Daytona Bike Week this year. Why the Scarred for Life moniker? “I didn’t choose this life; I was dropped into it. Yes, it’s about tattoos, scars—many meanings.”
Congratulating Elisa on a successful five years in business, I wondered aloud what moved Elisa to take such a risk, especially since she and her husband are already the owners and operators of Indian Larry Motorcycles. She responded, “I have a background in apparel; I was a buyer for many years and I wanted to bring American-made clothes to the working man. Did you know that 30 years ago, 98 percent of our clothing was made here, and now that number is only 2 percent?” Shocking statistics for sure.
The store is located in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, right at the edge of Greenpoint to the north. And it’s right down the street from the former home of Indian Larry Motorcycles, which several years ago relocated to Union Avenue, about a mile to the south. Continuing the made-in-America theme, Elisa explained, “This is the perfect location. This building was manufacturing kitchen equipment and in the 80’s most of it went to China, and the manufacturing that remained became such a minimal part, the owner had to rent out the building just to keep things going. It’s indicative of the automobile and motorcycle world, as well. This is the perfect example of what happened here.”
Elisa went on, “When I first started with Larry in 2001, this neighborhood was still pretty desolate. This whole neighborhood has exploded into ridiculous rents, high-priced condos and hotels. Now there are even two bowling alleys.” That said, the neighborhood has become quite hip with a vibrant street life: bars, restaurants and cafés, with people walking about and enjoying the parks with their friends, families and pets.
As the evening wore on, the crowd grew, with friends coming from all over. Outside I spotted master craftsman of motorcycles and leather Paul Cox who, close to a decade ago, worked with Indian Larry at the 14th Street shop. Richiepan from Dark Star Tattoo and his riding brother Fat Bob had ridden in from New Jersey. And inside the shop, Diva Dawn of Metal di Muse had set up a table for a fundraiser she created: Art for ALD. Elisa and Bob had two children, Aidan and Sienna, but Aidan passed away from ALD in 2012 at the age of 7. If the disease is found early enough, it can be cured, but sadly, for Aidan, that was not to be. Since that time, the family has fought for infant newborn screening for ALD to save other families from the same heartache.
Art for ALD is raising money for the Aidan Jack Seeger Foundation by offering mini works of “mystery art” by famous artists, celebrities and others. For a minimum of $50, donators will receive a 4″ x 4″ canvas of their choosing. The mystery part comes in because donators will not know who the artist is. During the party, Diva Dawn was able to meet, in person, artists who had already generously agreed to donate their time and their talents to support this cause. And she was able to “recruit” additional artists such as the suave and debonair Billy Leroy of the History Channel’s Baggage Wars fame. Billy was also the proprietor of Billy’s Antiques and Props in the Bowery of lower Manhattan, and if you are familiar with Billy, the show or his outdoor shop, you can be sure that his piece will be a wonderfully strange and unique work of art. Billy’s daughter, Celina Leroy, who is employed by Elisa at Genuine Motorworks, agreed to create a piece of artwork for the Foundation as well. The project launches publicly on August 14, but you donate now. Check out www.facebook.com/ArtForALD and www.gofundme.com/ARTforALD.
The fundraisers for ALD awareness and action continue with Aidan’s Ride on June (www.facebook.com/events/769780339706834), the California or Bust Run June 15 (www.californiaorbustrun.com) and the Aidan’s Ride through the Countryside October 15 (www.aidansride.webs.com). Elisa has already met with some success for her efforts; several states have mandated ALD screening for newborns, but her plans are more ambitious. She is pushing for a federal mandate.
When asked about future plans for the store, Elisa said, “We opened in 2009 in the middle of a recession. It’s been hard, but I’m proud we’re still open and moving forward. The business is growing.” The idea has been for Genuine Motorworks to produce its own clothing line: T-shirts, gloves, caps and hats. “We are slowly expanding the collection. We have some women’s clothing now, and we will expand in future years.”
It wasn’t until after midnight when I finally left, and the party was still going strong. I heard that the festivities continued until about 4:00 a.m. Party hard and work hard. It’s the American way.
(This article The American Way was published in the June 2014 issue of Thunder Press, North edition.)