When I first started riding motorcycles, I was enamored with British bikes. I loved their style and feel. They just looked right and they felt like a motorcycle should; at least to my way of thinking. No pressed steel frames or die cast aluminum crankcases for me. It didn’t matter if all the bikes I bought were old and unreliable; they were honest bikes in my eyes.
I went through a succession of bikes, and in the summer of 1972 I wound up buying a 1954 350cc Matchless. Now, I knew nothing about the bike, but I heard about people who did, and I started seeking them out. One of the places I heard about was a shop in Everett called Mack’s, at 54 School St.. So one Saturday, I went looking for the shop to see what they had, and if they could help me with my new “old” bike. I went with my friend Ron and while we found School Street, it was a residential area; there were no businesses in sight. We parked and started walking up and down the street looking at house numbers and there was no 54. We were standing in front of what looked like a four car garage thinking we’d gotten some bad information, when I looked through a window in one of the doors. I saw an Arial Square 4 parked inside and I realized that we’d been in front of Mack’s all along. Unfortunately, the shop was closed, but seeing that Square 4 gave me real hope.
I went back a week or two later, and when I went in I met Jimmy. Jimmy was a Real Biker in both his appearance and attitude. When I told him I had a Matchless with a charging problem, he pulled out every part of the charging system to show me they had everything in stock. Armatures, field shoes and brushes for the generator and a new regulator in its Genuine Lucas box. I liked Jimmy right away; he was a no bullshit kind of guy. I didn’t get to meet his partner Guy for another visit or two. He had a very different personality from Jimmy’s, but he was also really likeable. It didn’t take long for me to feel like it was the shop I wanted to do business with. It was the kind of place that your mother warned you to stay away from. It was dark and greasy and was frequented by Characters with strong personalities.
The shop was mainly a repair shop, and they sold parts, both new and used. You could find NOS parts for a WL, or a speedometer mounting bracket for a 1932 VL, or a transmission mainshaft for a 1954 Triumph 650 there.
Most of my visits to the shop were both social and educational. I learned a lot about motorcycles when I was there. Jimmy and Guy were really helpful and they were in business for their love of motorcycles, and not to get rich. I would go by the shop pretty regularly until I moved to Colorado Springs in 1973, and that ended my association with Mack’s for a few years.
I came back to Massachusetts in the Spring of ’78 to visit my family and friends, and I made it a point to go by Mack’s and see if it was still there. It was; and I learned that Jimmy had left the business and Guy was running the shop on his own. It was good to see him, and it was especially good to know that the shop still survived.
I moved back to Massachusetts late in ’78 and I would occasionally go by the shop to visit and hang out. At that time, it seemed like Guy would spend most of the business day talking with customers, then, about 4:30 or 5:00 he’d start working on bikes and work until midnight or so.
I remember one Saturday in particular when Guy said, “I need a bike for Laconia”. His personal bike had been torn down in the fall and the pieces were scattered all over the place. He grabbed a set of Sportster crankcases and started washing them in the parts cleaner. We were there all night, and when I left for home the next morning at 7:00 AM, Guy had his bike together and running.
One day, a woman came into the shop. She had a Honda 350 that wasn’t running, and she was also poor. Jimmy pulled a pair of carburetors off a 350 that was sitting in the back of the used bikes area and handed them to her with the comment, “I know it’s only a piece of shit Honda, but any bike is better than no bike. When you get a decent bike, bring these back to me.” He just gave her the carbs. That was the atmosphere at the shop. People were gruff and sometimes rude, but they genuinely cared and would do what they could to help out. There was a very real esprit there.
I bought my first Harley at the shop. I had been looking all winter long, and I was trying to meet with the owner of a 1972 Shovelhead, but I couldn’t seem to connect with him. I went by the shop one day, and Guy had a ’78 Superglide on the lift. He said that it would be a good bike for me. It wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I kept looking at it during the day and checking things out. The tires had a lot of life left in them, the chain and sprocket looked good, there were no oil leaks and it had low mileage. By the end of the day, I told Guy I wanted it, and to negotiate the best deal he could for me with the owner.
That turned out to be a great bike for me, and it made me smile for 72,000 miles.
In the ‘90s, Guy moved the shop from Everett to Chelsea, and he also changed the name to GP motorcycles (the GP stood for Guy and Paul). Paul was a business partner for a short while. He lost interest in the business and moved on to other things, but the name has stayed the same. In 1994, I was unemployed as a Miner, so I worked for Guy as he started building up the business in its new location until I went back to work Underground. It was fun and interesting.
I bought a rolling basket case from Guy in 1995. It was a 1979 XLCH, and it was a sorry mess. When it came into the shop, the carburetor was unattached to the engine and hanging by the throttle cable. Guy went through the engine, then sold the bike to me for a very reasonable price. It took me over a year, and a lot of work, but when I was finished, I had a bike that was beautiful. Guy let me work on the bike on my free time, and I had my own keys to the shop. There were a few Sundays when I was there alone building that bike. That was the bike that I shipped to Australia, and I used it to ride to the Australian H.O.G. Rally in Tasmania in 1997.
A few years ago, the building in Chelsea was taken by the City for Eminent Domain, and the shop moved to its present location in Malden. Guy is now known as Guido to differentiate himself from his son who’s name is also Guy. (we used to call him Little Guy, but now he’s grown up ). Guy (the son) is now the chief mechanic and runs the repair area. Sandra, Guido’s daughter is in charge of the parts department, and handles most of the phone calls. Guido works on older bikes and engines. He’s still one of the best Iron Motor Sportster wrenches I’ve ever seen. It’s a family business, and it’s still an Old Time kind of shop.
A few months ago, I was visiting everybody at the shop and Guido was working on a rubber mount Sportster. He told me that it would be a good bike for me, as it was an R model which has the dual front brakes and better suspension. I’ve been planning a long ride around the country on a Sportster, but I was thinking primarily about a rigid mount Sportster. But, the more I looked at the bike, the more sense it made. A couple of days ago, we reached a deal.
I’m now the owner of a 2005 XL 1200 R Roadster. Now, all I have to do is make a couple of small changes and it will be perfect for my plans.
I love dealing with an Old Time business.