Update (December 8th, 2021): Moto PDX Cafe is now open.
Next month, a performance-motorcycle themed cafe will open at 8826 SE Stark Street. Titled Moto PDX Cafe, they will serve Italian coffee drinks and rider-friendly meals that digest well on the road. Within this mid-century modern storefront, owner Brendan Jones brings together his enthusiasm for European MotoGP and his penchant for creating engaging community spaces.
Seven years ago, Jones left an advertising career and created The Big Legrowlski in downtown Portland. What had started as a growler shop eventually grew into a live music venue. He let that business develop organically based on customer feedback. Jones explained that the same process would shape this new venture, “to be successful in business like this, you have to pivot quickly and just listen to or at least observe [customers], because it really is a like a focus group.”
Jones is moving on from The Big Legrowlski, letting others grow that business. He is looking to build a different type of place for people to congregate, based less on nightlife activities and more on a shared passion. The building on Stark Street became available late last year, providing a location for his new creation. Living just ten minutes away from the building and the storefront’s proximity to the motorcycle store Cycle Gear, it seemed like an ideal location to bring his longtime vision to fruition.
The idea for a motorcycle cafe occurred to Jones when he lived in San Francisco. However, real estate costs in California made it difficult to act on that idea. Fortunately, Portland can support the economics of operating an establishment like Moto PDX Cafe, where other cities could not. “Portland is a great space, It isn’t too expensive yet, and it’s still a place where, if you have an idea, you can make it happen.” Explained Jones.
Work on the building will have a light touch, maintaining much of the current layout. White paint will replace the deep black color on the building’s exterior. Green painted highlights will tie in the cafe’s logo to the building. An attempt to expose the original vertical wood beams and raw aluminum window frames is underway, but the many layers of paint pose a challenge.
The building sits back from the street, creating a deep parking lot. Jones is not a fan of large car-centric spaces and wants to add planers around the property to create a courtyard aesthetic. Motorcycle parking takes up significantly less space than car stalls, allowing him to reshape the street side of the property towards people-focused activities.
Inside the cafe, televisions will show race footage and live events. The long bank of glass-front refrigerators that remain from the buildings earlier use as a grocery will hold European beer and refrigerated foods. Moto PDX Cafe will sell both beer and wine for consumption onsite or carryout. Jones is not interested in recreating a drinking-focused business like his last project, but he understands that it will complement the location’s overall vibe. The cafe will have a full kitchen. However, the menu is still in development. Thanks to an idea from his wife, Jones envisions guest chefs taking over the kitchen, offering a rotating menu and new takes on standard dishes.
Moto PDX Cafe will eventually open to customers from 10 AM to 10 PM. Staffing will have some challenges. Jones is looking for people who are modern motorcycle enthusiasts. Performance bikes throughout the shop will provide additional decoration and be the item of conversation. Additionally, plans for a consignment sales area will ensure this is more than just a food destination for the motorcycle racing community. Cafe staff that can prepare food and speaks with experience about bikes will be imperative to the operation of the cafe. Finding people with both skill sets will take time.
Look for work on the property to continue through the end of July. The intention is for the cafe to open in early August. As construction tasks complete and furniture arrives, Jones will announce an appropriate opening date. More information on that date should come by the end of the month.