Community Grounds in Cabbagetown
There is something very much interwoven, something intimately personal, and yet, dare we say, quite primordial, about wrenches, oil, steel, and a bunch of people standing around working on motorcycles. Throw in some finely roasted coffee, and you have one of Atlanta’s most fascinating communal experiences. Searching for a space that combines motorheads and those who relish great java? Look no further than the business built by the guys at Brother Moto. What exactly is Brother Moto? It’s a self-described, community-based do-it-yourself garage. For a monthly membership fee, you gain access to space where other motorcycle enthusiasts crowd around each other to solve problems and trade secrets. A product of the experience is a combination of fellowship and instruction. Inside you might find a 16-year-old novice conversing with a 64-year-old master, as members coalesce around engines and brews. Gasoline and caffeine fuel an understanding that is found in an evolving neighborhood just south of the Krog Street Tunnel; a neighborhood called Cabbagetown.
If you aren’t familiar with Atlanta or its history, the area just east of this Southern urban metropole has a fascinating past. In the wake of the Civil War, as the New South attempted to remake itself with varied success, one of the first textile processing factories in the region was constructed; it was called the Fulton Mill Village. An all-inclusive town within a town swelled to more than two-thousand employees before the First World War. Legend has it that the cabbage moniker was initially uttered as a slur against the folks who grew the vegetable outside their mill-built domiciles. Whether this legend is rooted in fact or not, the name stuck, becoming part of the lexicon as Cabbagetown rose to prominence. By the 1970s, however, hard times fell on the mill and it spiraled down into a dilapidated neighborhood. Like the proverbial phoenix, it rose again, due in large part to an arts culture that blossomed there beginning in the 1990s. Since then, Cabbagetown has taken part in an urban renewal movement. Then Brother Moto came to town.
Garage or Coffee Shop?
Scaling businesses nowadays takes time and effort, to be sure. If you want to compete, melding two concepts can be fruitful. Two vintage bike owners—Jared Erickson, a former graphic designer, and his partner in business Bobby Russell, a photographer—initially set up shop in East Atlanta Village, but they were driven out on a technicality, by which the city council deemed the ‘burb to have one too many automotive service stations, and Brother Moto had to go. What’s ironic is that it’s not a mechanic shop, a fact that left the council scratching their heads. As Erickson argued, it was more a courteous and respectful biker club, one that did not claim fees for repairs. Despite thousands of signatures in support, the exemption was ignored. Undeterred, the dynamic duo pressed on, eventually landing at their now-permanent location in Cabbagetown.
Brother Moto’s concept is threefold. They would ask that you come with questions, drink some Sightglass coffee, and leave with a bag of goods—a selection that includes the likes of Vanson Leather, Roland Sands, Tucker Rocky, and Taylor Stitch. Unabashed, they quip, You don’t have to own a motorcycle to love Brother Moto. What they’re selling is something unique. It’s about fellowship, locality, and a communal experience that galvanizes. Strangely enough, a group of anarchists splattered white paint over their storefront in an effort to make a statement. They posted a misattribution by stating that Brother Moto was a boutique. A “boutique?” What an odd turn-of-phrase. Nothing could be further from the truth. Brother Moto is not a boutique that serves a sophisticated or specialized clientele. Rather, it’s part of a community that promotes convergences and brings together a variety of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Here, they are not just members, and everyone has the chance to be motocurious. Clearly, the anarchists got it wrong. Stop by and experience something worthwhile.
Words By J.N. Campbell
Photos by Mary Caroline Russell