The Dark Alley Cycle Shop in Marshall, Michigan threw an open house to show off the revamped shop with great beer, food, and music.
Dark Alley Cycle Shop Open House
The Shaded Pony Woodworks, Skate Shop & Dark Alley Motorcycle Shop hosted its open house on Saturday, May 13, 2017, in the Dark Horse Compound. Yes, we were the guests who arrived late. Thankfully we were still greeted with open arms. After securing a sample of the Dark Horse X Three Floyds collaboration, “Oil of Gladness” we cornered Lance and Cabe for an interview. They shared a bit more about their vision for the shop, what sets them apart from other cycle shops, and if they anticipate partnering with a dealership. (That got them a bit sidetracked!) We also snuck in our favorite question, “What do you love about your life in Michigan?”
We’ve got more pictures of the shop and bands in our gallery. There is a full transcript of the interview at the end of this article.
Music for the road
Not only did the Dark Alley Cycle shop open house include the unveiling of the revamped shop and the release of “Oil of Gladness”, they threw in some killer music from 3lb Cut and Bonehawk.
The music got off to a fine start with the thick and juicy bluegrass of 3lb Cut. The band is made up of local musicians Adrian Bagale, Derek Smith, Alvin Lautzenheiser, and Kjell Croce. Adrian and Derek are part of Northfield Mandolins in Marshall. Kjell works at the legendary Elderly Instruments in Lansing. Alvin is the notorious guitar slinger in Marshall and overall awesome dude.
Together these guys cut a rug with music that would set the hills on fire. While traditional tunes were part of their repertoire, they threw in some contemporary covers which brought a smile to many faces. If you get a chance, head back to Marshall on July 27th when the band will be playing at Dark Horse as part of their Thursday night music series.
Fresh off a recent tour down in Texas, the guys in Bonehawk were tuned up to lay down some of their patented heavy as the heaviest riffs in the universe upon the unsuspecting crowd at Dark Horse. For those new to the band, Bonehawk combines a love for the mighty riffs of Black Sabbath with the beautiful twin guitar harmonies of Thin Lizzy. They package this all up into a hearty stew of fat ass grooves that pack a punch.
While some of the crowd hung back to soak up the tunes in the shade, the diehard rockers moved up front to get a face full of rock. Bonehawk played quite a few cuts from their debut ‘Albino Rhino’ album including “Tonight We Ride” and “Desert Run”. They also jammed some new tunes which sounded spectacular. Hopefully the band will be back in the studio soon so we can crank out their new music at home. The band will be busy touring with stops at Fuzz Fest in Ann Arbor on June 2nd and Burnin Turf on June 3rd in Ruth, MI.
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(All their words, hopefully transcribed accurately. It has been edited a little…)
Life In Michigan: Hey, this is Chuck from Life In Michigan, and I’m taking to Cabe and Lance from Dark Alley Cycle Shop. How are you guys doing?
Cabe: Good Man.
LIM: Alright, awesome. So, today’s the open house. How has it been going so far?
Cabe: Good. It’s been nice weather.
Lance: Yeah, nice weather. Good turn out. A little worried. But it’s been awesome.
Cabe: Very good.
LIM: Dark Horse Brewing and Marshall, Michigan, they are kind of destinations for a lot of people that ride. Did that have any influence in getting the whole Dark Alley Cycle shop going?
Cabe: Ultimately, in the beginning it came down to Aaron wanting something like this. It turns out that patrons come here do ride. From one stem to the other. Be it the guy with a few bucks to the guy who is a millionaire. That was the idea as Aaron’s first vision, as far as that goes. As far as this new push. It is nothing new, but we are going for something better.
Lance: Obviously, I’m new to the crew over the here. It has been a good response for me. I’ve known this has been a destination for a long time. It’s nice to see people roll in. See the doors open. Walk over and just go, man, can I get an oil change right now? Yeah, how long are you going to be? It’s a destination like you said. Yeah, it’s nice to see patrons for a long time and new people that come realize that it’s not just a brewery. A lot is going on here. A lot of great businesses that can service.
Lance: I’m not sure what the founding was, but like Cabe said it’s growing. I think the new push to get them in is going to be good. It’s interesting to see people’s reaction when they show to the brewery and…
LIM: there is a cycle shop over there…
Cabe: I just read something on Yelp or whatever. It might have been Instagram where some chick posted something. She said, I’m feeding my baby in the parking lot. I’m doing this and I’m doing that. But one place where you can get a tattoo, you can get awesome beer. You can get coffee made up front we roast our own stuff. You can get your own housemade ice cream all in the same place. And you can get your bike serviced while you have a pint. That was her point, was of all places, this is so unique. I think that is part of a growing understanding that we are an odd but fulfilling destination. You can go other places and you don’t find the unique experience. (Unique is probably a shitty word, you know what I mean?). You don’t across the way and get yourself a new primary gasket or a new front end for that matter. I’m going to get 4 or 5 pints. I’m going to get some ice cream. My kids are happy. Kids are running around the beer garden. It’s a destination. I think that’s Aaron’s. Anyway, it’s a unique place. It’s an ultimate destination.
Lance: Yeah, I think that was one of my big things. I was a little apprehensive when I was asked to come over here and work. Just about business and how to get clientele and all that stuff. That was the one thing that rang in my mind all the time is every time I was over here visiting these guys. People just come here. You don’t have to work very hard because the people that come here are all happy. They’ve all been here before and now that they’ve opened the Commons, in different variations and in different things. Everybody has come to expect that it’s going to be the same kind of quality that they had. So once I really dug down deep, I realized you know what I gotta do is what they do and the business will come.
Cabe: You fit in. It’s really hard not to fit it. You get to be a real asshole. You have to be an asshole not to fit in. Then you won’t be here long.
LIM: That is what has been drawing us for years. You just feel comfortable. Yeah.
Cabe: There is a good feeling. More often than not, that is how it is. At events or a slow day on a Wednesday or whatever or I’m passing through.
LIM: So leads into another question, we what do you guys think sets your shop apart from other regional cycle shops?
Lance: I guess if I had to think about it, and to even come back from where I have been in the past, it’s more of just a personal experience. More of guys that ride and enjoy it. Enjoy getting the job done correctly. Verse the big corporate, we’re here to make money, take your money. Sell our logo. It’s more of that, of every shop I’ve been too. It’s not as much of the almighty dollar. Let’s make, you know, 5 million this year. It’s the experience of talking to someone that is knowledgeable, wants to help you. And is going to give you that help, if you want it. I guess if I really wanted to bring it down to it, I guess it’s what you’ll call a riders shop. It’s not a guy that wants to come in and see a half $1 million of trinkets on the wall. He comes in because you change his oil right. You sold them the right tire. You sold them the right, whatever, it doesn’t matter.
Cabe: You sell the guy the right advice. There’s a lot of people who come through, they think this or they think that. To give sound and reasonable advice, sound and reasonable parts, look you don’t have to go with a half-a-million-dollar thing. If you want to make this thing ride right, we will get you in the right direction. You know what I mean.
Lance: Really that is the personality and what you are going to get for a service aseptic. But what when you look at what makes us different from any other shop, you can go back to the compound.
Cabe: Yeah, right
Lance: It’s the visceral. You can do this. A guy can come in on Wednesday and say, hey man, if I bring my stuff over on Friday at like 4 o’clock, can I get a an oil change while I get a bit to eat and a beer. Yeah, yes you can. For people that have never experienced that before, I’m sure it’s a shock and all, when someone says I took my bike over, and my wife and I had a pint, an ice cream cone.
Cabe: I’ve got cotton candy. I’ve got ice cream. I’ve got all this shit and I’m getting my bike worked on. Do I believe what’s going on? Like he said, my first thought was the difference is where are and what we are and how. It’s our destination. We are all legal. We are licensed. It’s not a fucking circus. It’s all good to go. It might be a hard pill to swallow for some folks.
LIM: Why am I going to a brewery?
Cabe: It this just for show?
Lance: To just a kinda reiterate the feeling of people, some people walk in that have been coming here for a long time to doors open over there and they realize, you really have a bike shop. They just don’t fathom it. I think once they give it a five-second, hey, what is this all about or do you do? They realize, yes, this is a legitimate shop. I’m not drinking beer all day. This is a shop. It works on these hours. You know after that it’s a hangout for whoever wants to hang out, because that’s what bikers do. They want to hang out. You know, for a dealership mentality you’re never going to get that. For some people, that’s a cool thing, the place to hang out.
LIM: Speaking about the services you have, I’m guessing it’s like just a full-service shop plus you do custom modifications, mods and that kind of stuff?
Lance: Yeah, I would like to say a lot of times that’s long-term, big projects usually how you want to get through the winter.
Cabe: Keyword winter. When you want to take things, it’s going to be under certain scrutiny. A lot of times you want to save those things for the winter.
Lance: We’ve got access to do anything from the ground up build, to restore, to general maintenance.
Cabe: Fabrication. Machinery.
Cabe: Basic to complicate we have the skills.
Lance: That is a good thing we can do a little bit of everything. If we specialize in anything, it is good service. I mean, that’s what I’ve always done. Yeah, everything can be had. You know we’ve got the avenues. If we can’t tackle it, we know guys that can.
Cabe: We will put you to the place and the people that can get it done right.
LIM: Do you guys ever see yourselves partnering up with the dealership to do anything? Or is going to be independent?
Cabe and Lance: No
Lance: I was just talking with my dad’s best friend, since they were probably seven years old. You know the dealership, not to bash Harley or to bash any of the major dealerships, but a lot of them have just lost touch with the actual rider mentality.
Cabe: You’re looking at a corporate entity that more often than not runs those things. They have expectations, they have sales margins, they have certain things like that. So to say that we will partner in some way is very difficult to even think about. Because, not that you are necessarily anti-factory, but you don’t necessarily need it.
Lance: Like you said about not needing it, in these days and times there are very few moments that you really need, with the aftermarket world that’s out there; the quality; having to have that dealership is no longer is no longer a necessity. Going back to the hangout and the quality of the people you deal with; the biggest turn off, and I will say a lot of the newer writers that are buying their new bikes. When they finally realized that they want that brotherhood or they want that guy knows their name when they walk in. It’s not necessarily so much as it used to be a Harley dealer you know. The guy doesn’t know your name. You don’t know the guy that changes your tires because you don’t see the service shop.
Cabe: There is like he’s saying, there’s a lot to go with, oh shit I’m trying to think of the word, a consistency. People want to go where they feel like they’re treated well. They feel like they have been fixed right. All that other stuff. Be it at the dealership itself, where you get coffee and donuts every goddamn time or whether it’s just you’re greeted with the same thing. You know there are those instances and there are those people. But anyway, there are those people who…
Sidetrack, sorry. I worked for a Polaris dealership and there was this guy who would bring in food and this guy was exclusive. There are those people who are exclusive to you. That are like I want you to work on my stuff. You work on my snowmobile, you work on my quad, you work on my motorcycle. I like what you do. There are those people. And whether it’s dealership or not, I think with some independence if you will, independently owned, you might get a little more personal preference or attention, now you know what I mean. He’s a good salesman (referring to Lance). He is a good talker. He’s got a customer of his own that he brought over, so anyway.
Lance: Yeah now see I lost my train of thought (laughs). Yeah, but what you were saying about a partnership. The partnership that I want to have with a dealership, I think we already have and it’s the fact that they no longer, in most instances, treat customers as good and friendly as they need to. I think that in this day and age, I think it’s finally starting to revert back to people going; you know what? I do want to be treated like I’m not the random asshole that walked off the street. I think the partnership that I want with them is they keep doing what they do I keep doing what I do. That brings them in and it kind of ties back.
Cabe: Keeps them in.
Lance: Yes and it ties back into the whole thing of this being a destination.
Cabe: Especially when they learn that. When a customer learns that I’m a motorcycle rider exclusively. Oh, and they stop and look around and go, what the fuck. Holy shit look at all this stuff!
Lance: I’ve been coming over here for probably eight years, and out of the eight years I’ve been coming here, there’s a handful of people that I see on a daily basis that don’t work here. And they are always here. That right there says there’s a lot of people in this area that trust what goes on here. They always come here. They eat dinner, they get their bakery, they do whenever. So why wouldn’t you have the same trust of the guy that’s next door or the guy who is slinging ink on somebody’s arm. It’s the same thing. You know they realize that hey, these guys got their shit together. They know how to get people to do the job. So it all kind of all ties back, I guess.
LIM: That resonates really well with the whole vibe of Dark Horse Brewing. The whole conglomeration is that there is that personalization. That you’re just not a customer coming in, but that people care about you.
Lance: Exactly. Exactly.
Cabe: You know one of the things I will interject really quick. One of the things that Aaron has said to me. I said why the fuck do you want to go to work from 9 to 6. He goes, I want people to see us doing what we do. I want to see customers. I want them to see what we do. Ok. Sold.
LIM: Something I like to ask people during interviews, since you know we are Life in Michigan, is what do each of you love about your life in Michigan? So who wants to go first? Lance?
Lance: You know, I’ve been here forever. I think I’ve cussed it out a few times in my life.
Cabe: Who hasn’t? (Laughs)
Lance: Mostly in the winter. You know, two months in winter, why the fuck am I still here. I think being here, I come from a smaller town. I know Marshall is a smaller town. I come from Ionia. Parent background you know one family that was a little bit better well to do. My dad’s family a lot more blue collar. The good thing that’s around here I think is just the industry. Because, I think when I was young, I saw the struggle of my parents. Didn’t want to do that. Thought I wanted to be white-collar. And the more I went to college, the more I thought god damn man I really want to do some of that cool stuff.
The one thing Michigan does have is a lot of cool industry and a lot of cool old timers that were here. That you can still find stuff that was done here. You know when I moved to Kalamazoo to go to Western, I was a huge music lover, but I was not a musician. I have a lot of musician friends. You know, to find out that Gibson was there and to see those buildings. That’s I think for me, that’s what’s always kept me in Michigan. A) The beauty. It’s a beautiful state. Especially going to the UP and seeing the industry that used to be there and what’s there.
It’s just that there was so much culture here, so much industry. In my later life when I grasped it and realize that’s what I wanted. It’s bitchin. It’s bitchin. I mean it’s just, there’s so much to be had. The new generation I just don’t think a lot of of them understand how cool at one point this state was. How much was really here. There’s just stories ever where you know.
Cabe: I think Michigan was instrumental. Number one when I think gears. Michigan was number one in the automotive industry. They were fucking number one man. All three. Packard, you name it. Michigan was a huge, huge hub. A huge bustling place.
I’ve been to Europe two or three times and like he says (referring to Lance), as I’ve aged I’ve understood more. I have been able to travel and what not. Move around and see. Michigan’s geography. Just what the state is like up and down. You get into the UP, like you said. All the way to the end. Riding a motorcycle all the way until you couldn’t go anymore. In the UP man, it’s so incredible. Yeah, you know, you got to deal with snow. I get it.
Lance: All you gotta do is drive through the plains once. Drive through the plains. You know you drive through there in the winter, and you go these poor bastards don’t even have a hill to look at. All they’ve got is blowing snow. At least we have trees and hills.
Cabe: You might not like the winters so much, but when it comes right down to it, It is so fucking fast and abrupt that when winter is done and spring decides to kick her ass in gear, boom green. I’m talking fields. I’m talking lawns. Fuck what happened to my lawn. Lawns, you’re talking trees. Boom and it’s there. We experience the extremity of all four seasons. Like I’ve said, I’ve been to multiple countries. I’ve been to multiple states. I’ve been to fucking you name it. But to keep it on the path of the motorcycle, this state, besides the shitty roads in certain counties; but you go to the UP…fucking gold. Anyway, the riding is just fucking incredible. You go to Harbor Springs. You go through Harbor Springs and people are grabbing their kids (laughter). You go down 119, shit, it’s just so incredible man. The roads around here are fucking incredible. In my adult life, that’s what kept me here.
Lance: Right and when he’s talking about motorcycling cause he’s big on it, I’m big on it; We’ve been big on it forever. That’s another thing about Michigan is that you go to other states and we are probably one of the biggest motorcycling states there are. I mean it’s just amazing. Like you go to Florida. I’ve met people who have moved to Florida or whatever. You talk to them and they don’t ride in winter. But it’s 50 degrees, I’m going, but you don’t ride in the winter, oh no no. It’s amazing because the motorcycling. I think the state has a lot of motorcycling. Other than Wisconsin, I would probably say it’s probably one of the heaviest populated motorcycling states that there are. Which is interesting because we have such terrible roads and such crappy winters and everything else. But yeah. It’s a good State. I’ve never left and I could have (laughs). We’re here.
LIM: Awesome man, so I just have one last question. It’s kind of a silly question. What do you like to eat for breakfast?
Lance: If I had it my way every morning and I didn’t have to make, I would have sausage gravy and biscuits every morning. Every morning. But I’d have to make it, so that’s why I don’t have it every morning.
LIM: Well, Lance man, I appreciate you talking with me.
Lance: Thank You, I appreciate it.
LIM: Alright brother. We’re out! See ya!