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Jailhouse Cycles Revs Up Business Downtown

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — With any luck, the eight inches of snow that fell Sunday was the last serious storm of the season. That means, over the next few weeks, business will pick back up for Jailhouse Cycles.

After opening last April, the motorcycle shop on West Wood Street almost immediately saw a steady flow of customers as more people scheduled appointments every day, owner Sean Clark says. But once temperatures dropped and snow stayed on the ground beginning in November, “it came to a screeching halt,” he says.

A few big projects have kept the store afloat, but the approach of spring and temperatures above freezing will be a godsend – Clark estimates that his winter business was about a twentieth of last summer’s.

“There’s a list of people who want to come in as soon as the roads clear up. But, it seems like every time they are clear and people can ride, we get another snowstorm,” Clark says. “If it weren’t for that, my shop would be full right now. As soon as the weather breaks, we’ll be busy. We’re just waiting on the weather to get nice.”

The city’s rebounding downtown — the store sits at the top of the hill immediately north of downtown — is what drove business last summer, Clark says. It helped that Jailhouse set up some distance from other motorcycle shops in the area.

“Being up on the hill, you can see us from Joe Maxx, from Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts. It just always seemed like a really good location,” he says. “There’s Youngstown Cycle out by Boardman that gets most of the business there and Canfield and the South Side. Being here, we can get everyone on the North Side, the East Side, Girard, Austintown and Youngstown.”

Another driving point his for business, he adds, is price. One special Clark’s running to increase sales is a 25-point inspection for $300.

Clark says that working with motorcycles was never in doubt. Both of his parents rode bikes, as did most of his friends and their parents. So having an opportunity to work with them every day is a dream come true.

“I get to wake up, make a cup of coffee, come down here and get to wrenching on a bike. It’s perfect. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” says Clark, who lives above the shop. “I’ve always found it interesting about the different ways you can do different things, learning new ways to make it look different or run different or customize it. Everything about them is fun. It’s good hands-on work when you learn the ins and outs.”

And since opening Jailhouse Cycles, Clark has learned about the motorcycle community. He points to city police officers and  government employees who have become regulars.

“There was a cop in here earlier who has something like 10 bikes that we work on. If I were to run into him on the street, I’d never guess that he rode. When you look at him, you’d never picture him as a biker,” he says.

The stereotype of motorcycle rider is changing, he agrees.

Gone are the days of Hell’s Angels and Marlon Brando’s Black Rebels Motorcycle Club in “The Wild One,” released in 1953. Today, people such as Youngstown’s coordinator of downtown events and Youngstown State University trustees ride bikes when the weather permits.

“The image has changed a lot over the years,” Clark says. “There are still some motorcycle clubs in Youngstown that have that look. But if you talk to them, they’re all good people. We get Pagans in here and they’re great people. We get some Boricuas and LAMAs in here. There are a lot of motorcycle associations and they’re all really nice.”

His shop that services all makes and models. “We don’t discriminate here,” Clark says with a laugh, although he allows that sometimes been a challenge. As with cars, many mechanics focus on learning the specifics and intricacies of one manufacturer.

“The Harley guys usually work on nothing but Harleys. If I throw a wrench into the mix and have them work on something like an old Suzuki, it’s a challenge for them because it’s not what they’re used to doing,” Clark says. “It’s nice to have that variety, though. Not all people ride a Harley, but a lot of places will only work on Harleys or Suzukis. We wanted to broaden that horizon and be able to take care of everybody.”

PICTURED: Sean Clark operates Jailhouse Cycles.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.