Scott Colosimo will be the first to tell you he's not a fan of corporate types. Funny thing is, he is one. Colosimo makes motorcycles, the kind that belong in Cleveland. The kind that are loud and dirt cheap.
Colosimo heads up Cleveland CycleWerks, makers of bobbers, choppers and bikes of all sorts. The company's marquee dealership, which opened Oct. 5, is holed up in the center of a massive warehouse on West 65th Street with none of the screaming accouterments of a typical Harley-Davidson dealer.
Bikes are everywhere, inside the showroom and out. Tha Heist, with a 250 cc engine and aggressively accessible small-bike styling that goes for about $3,300, headlines the motorcycle gamut lining the wall. As Colosimo stomps the starter, it rumbles up with a guttural, choking growl.
In the corner of the showroom is a bike he custom built. Small and squat, the 1954 BSA is a work of art. Raised from just a "pile of steel," the welds, custom-fitted rear wheel and gas tank are bare. No flames, paint or finish, just a lone CycleWerks decal. To Colosimo, that's where the beauty lies, in things that are loud in their simplicity. "We don't like to do theme bikes," says Colosimo. "Even when we do designs, we like to keep things simple."
Sitting in his showroom, incense masking the scent of gasoline, Colosimo is in his element. Sandy-haired with a solid handshake, he's exactly the type of guy you'd want to buy a motorcycle from. At 32, he's weaved in and out of corporate America putting his industrial design degree to work in the automotive industry and for the makers of Dirt Devil vacuums. After being laid off in 2009, he bounced around, settling on his passion since college: motorcycles.
"The original idea was to turn nine grand into 50, then we're out," he says. He and his partners started with 20 bikes. But he quickly realized he'd stumbled onto something. "I had a f--- this moment — greasy from head to toe, metal in my eyes — time to rethink this," he says. He went all in.
What began in his garage has since blossomed. With eight full-time employees, CycleWerks churns out 12,000 bikes a year. It has U.S. assembly shops in Cleveland, New Jersey and California. (Some assembly is still done in China, but Colosimo is working to bring more to the States.) Domestic manufacturers supply about 60 parts.
"It was always my intention to bring manufacturing back to the U.S.," he says.
Colosimo wants to move the Cleveland plant into the 70,000-square-foot warehouse, bringing assembly directly adjacent to the showroom.
Upstairs, hidden away in a corner of the warehouse, is an old-school Cleveland boardroom. Fake wooden paneling, lowered ceilings and plastic sconces abound. Colosimo peers through a misplaced ceiling tile toward the unfinished roof.
"That's beautiful. Why would someone do that?" he says.
He gestures at one of the ugly sconces, recently destroyed. "I took a sledgehammer to that one," he says with a grin. After all, he's hardly corporate.