An exclamation point is the only way to end any sentence with the words Motoworks Chicago, located at 1901 S Western Ave. Johnny Scheff, the proprietor, is engaging, affable and enthusiastic about the brand and all things two wheeled. When you meet him, you instantly want to like him — this electricity is conducted right through his feet and throughout the entire store. I had a great afternoon there on the nickel tour, bouncing from room to room as Johnny picked up the phone every few minutes, and seemingly knew everyone that came into his store the entire time I was there.
Motoworks doesn’t just sell scooters — there’s a large number of used bikes, possess a great service department with knowledgeable mechanics, and a huge space where they store well over a hundred bikes for their very satisfied clientele. “It’s funny about the season ending”, says Scheff, “we had reservations for only about 80 bikes on November first, and everyone was all worried”. “We filled up the place with more than 150 by the first snow, Chicago bikers and scooterists ride ’til the very last minute!”.
Johnny charges a reasonable $50 per month, and that includes draining the fuel system, taking out the battery (unless they buried in the frame of the bike!) and keeping everything ready for the season’s beginnings.
I walked around the giant storeroom. “It was so crowded in here we needed to move stuff just to get across the room. With the weather getting better, we’re starting to clear things out.” I notice dozens of BMWs. Johnny remarked that BMW had been his favorite ride forever (everyone needs flaws!) and his service department took care of dozens of satisfied owners.
The service facility was next on the tour. It looks like you’d find locomotive engines under repair were it bigger. It has a great look, and with the mechanics working quietly, focused on the job at hand, it feels like the heart of the shop. The bays are filled with BMWs getting repaired, and about a dozen scooters in for service, mostly regular maintenance. I spoke with one of the mechanics that I ride with, and he stated that the Piaggio/Vespa scoot repairs were “all about regular maintenance”. He hadn’t seen anything go wrong with a regularly maintained scoot.
I “re-met” Steve Strickland while I was there. Steve is an engaging fellow, and rides quite a bit even though he fixes bikes for a living. There’s a quiet air of confidence about him that really gives you the impression that if he’s turning a wrench on your machine, you won’t have to come back to fix it twice. He loves talking bikes and telling war stories about some of the more adventurous fixes.
Johnny was speaking to an associate in his service department when I caught up with him. He was saying, “On some of the more complex fixes, we send our customers pictures of their bikes in various states of tear-down or rebuilding”. When these repairs get expensive, I don’t just want to hand my friend a bill without any context”. “If someone is going to trust me to spend money on an extensive repair, I want to be able to prove that I’ve earned it!”. Hey what can you say about a shop wehre two of the four mechanics I met ride Guzzis!
Johnny disappears again, the phone re-glued to his ear. I walk with his associate into the showroom, and really take a look at all the bikes. My favorites are there, especially the Piaggio BV250 Touring, Along with big-bore 300cc Vespas, and an almost seemingly unlimited number of LX150’s and 50’s in every color of the rainbow. Johnny’s Vespas and Piaggio inventory is gigantic and comprehensive, with “buy-backs”, used and brand new units in great condition. If you really want a scoot, He’s your man (there’s also an Aprilia RS250 in the back for sale…)
I had to go, but wanted to say goodbye to Johnny. Nowhere to be seen. I bid the counter staff adieu and went out front to my V7C parked at the curb. There was Johnny, talking to his associate, smiling, shaking hands and emitting nothing but sunshine and kittens from his aura. “Do you have to leave?”. I said that I did, but offered him a spin on the V7 Classic at some point in the future. He grabbed my hand and said “You bet! It looks like a great ride”.
I don’t think that Johnny gets to ride as much as he used to when he was starting out. He’s one of the top Vespa/Piaggio dealers in the US, and is always finding creative and effective ways to help his customers — for the volume that he does, how he knows everyone’s name just amazes me.
As I left the store, I had to kick myself. I hadn’t gotten a picture of him for this post! Oh well, I think he’s going to be a regular stop on my rides around the city. Johnny, you make Motoworks Chicago a great destination!