Chicago vintage shop eyes move to more tax-friendly area

Publish Date: 
Mar 14, 2012

CHICAGO, Ill. - If you believe the adage “slow and steady wins the race,” then the owners of Ace Motorcycle and Scooter Co. in Chicago are headed for the winner’s circie – albeit not as fast as they’d hoped.

The store has built its business on maintenance and repair of vintage motorcycles and scooters, but the store also sells a few. And co-owner Chad McDade and his crew can work on just about any bike. They focus on vintage metrics, a niche that has gained steam since the store opened in June 2007.

McDade and his wife, Bee Kirchgatterer, say Ace has been able to steadily, if slowly, grow each year. The key to its success is a focus on a niche market and providing good service to a dedicated clientele.

“A year after we opened, the recession hit,” McDade told Medill Reports, “but collectable stuff is collectable all the time. A lot of people who have old bikes tend to have some money so they weren’t hit as hard as others.”

Staying small has helped. About 85 percent of Ace’s sales come from repairs. The rest comes from sales of used and consignment bikes and apparel. Ace’s three full-time mechanics can even fabricate parts that are hard to find.

The store is so busy that customers have to get on a waiting list to have their bikes repaired. That popularity allows Ace the luxury of homing in on a more upscale clientele who understand the nature and cost of maintaining vintage motorcycles and scooters.

“We went from having a labor rate of $65 per hour to $85,” Kirchgatterer says. “This fall it went to $100 an hour and there was no choking off of the work flow. We get so many phone calls I hear the phone ringing in my sleep. There could be 10 more shops like this in Chicago.”