Layton Rosencrance, Guzzi rider of many years, has spent a fair amount of time at Cascade Moto Classics buying parts or having his bikes serviced. He offered this observation, "No matter how small or silly the request, Kelly and Janice always answered it with a smile and enthusiasm. They both have been very helpful and supportive, whether it was for buying a new bike or a spark plug. The McCarthy's are great people to know and do business with."
Another long time Guzzi owner, Wayne Wakeland, shared his experience at the dealership, "When I had the shifter spring on my 1100i repaired, they gave me a lower winter shop rate. I'm pretty sure it took longer to do the work than the book said, but true to their word, they charged me only what had been estimated. On top of that, the mechanic noticed that something else was not correct and fixed it at no charge. This made my bike run more smoothly, so I enjoy riding it more. I always think of Janice and Kelly when I remember why the bike runs so well."
I bought my first Guzzi from Cascade. It was an immaculately painted white police Eldorado done by avid Guzzi enthusiast and local painter of well renown, Gregg Isley. I had to have it. I had never ridden a Guzzi before, but Kelly was brave enough to let me take it out for a test ride. I sold my Harley and BMW and have been riding Guzzis ever since.
This interview took place at Cascade Moto Classics' new, bigger and better location in Beaverton, Oregon. We sat in the upstairs customers/club lounge at a table surrounded by historic motorcycle memorabilia as the video played pro-racing. Down below in their spacious and well-composed showroom, Moto Guzzi, Triumph, and MZ were displayed in rows across the floor. This was after hours, but you could almost see a customer inquisitively straddling a new California, someone trying on a leather jacket, or a group of friends and riders mingling by the food table. Inhale the Guzzis and breathe them back out. Welcome to Cascade Moto Classics.
Albert and Sara Blower were students at U.C.L.A. when their daughter Janice was born in Santa Monica, California. Shirley Temple's doctor delivered her, (or so her mother told her). Janice grew up in nearby Monterey Park. Early on she had a certain wish, "I always dreamed when I was a kid playing house that I would marry somebody with an Irish last name. My family was Irish on both my grandmother's sides, but I got stuck with a German last name", she said. Monterey Park didn't have its own high school so she attended Alhambra High where her father and grandfather had been students. Janice has four brothers, Mike, Kirk, Craig and Brant. She graduated from high school a year early, at seventeen, and enrolled at U.C. Santa Barbara, but was so home sick she came back to study at the community college in east Los Angeles, where she majored in Theater Arts. She had dreams of being an actress that started with The Mickey Mouse Club and Annette Funicello (most of us guys old enough to remember Annette thought she was a doll). During college, Janice worked as many as three different jobs simultaneously, including one as an elementary school teaching assistant, but her steady and most favorite job turned out to be at Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom transferred her around a bit, and to her delight, she was able to work the groundbreaking robotic Mr. Lincoln exhibit, the nostalgic Main Street Train Station, and the Animal Rides. However, she most wanted to work in Fantasyland, but was considered too tall.
Janice now has a B.S in Theater Arts and an M.S. in Public Administration. Her father worked for 3M for over thirty years as a salesman and sales manager while her mother was homemaker until the kids were grown, then she began teaching elementary school. Janice has fond memories of growing up, but feels her kids can't have the kind of carefree childhood that she had. She could walk to the park at night and hang out with her friends. Halloween was a big treat going door to door and the kids felt safe. Life was simple.
Kelly was born in Queen of Angeles Hospital in Los Angeles. He was adopted by Don and Stella McCarthy and grew up in the San Fernando Valley in the city of Tarzana. The McCarthy's lived at the bottom of the hill from Edgar Rice Borough's European style castle. In case you didn't know, novelist Boroughs inspired readers throughout the world with the Tarzan series and his world famous tales of science fiction. Kelly and his boyhood friends, looking up at the Borough's estate, were fascinated and more than a bit curious so they crawled under the fence and broke into the castle. Inside, in Edgar's writing room, was a gigantic fireplace set under a magnificent balcony. Huge picture windows over-looked the entire valley and the mountains beyond. It may have been only mischief at the time, but as an adult it is one of those magical moments of childhood to Kelly.
Kelly was fourteen when he met Pince Richman. Pince was instrumental in turning Kelly onto motorcycles. With joy, Kelly tells the story, "I always loved English bikes when I was a kid. The guys in the neighborhood had English bikes. My heroes were these guys that had Bonnevilles, BSA Lightnings, cool bikes like that. The guy across the street got me into biking, Pince Richman. He was one of those 'Cool People'. Everybody else's dad worked normal jobs, this Pince rode a motorcycle and was part owner of a sports car dealership. One time he took me for a ride on his BSA Lightning. And that was it. Every now and then Pince would holler at me, in the evening in our driveway, "Wanna go to the races?"
I'd grab my jacket, run out there and jump on the back of that BSA. Down the street, we'd pick up our neighbor buddies, Army Valez and his son Jimmy, who both rode Triumphs, on our way out to Ascot Park for flat track in Gardena. Back then Army owned a 1964 Bonneville that Kelly admired. Kelly now has one too.
Kelly's father owned a Texaco gas station on Sepulveda Boulevard in close proximity to Los Angeles International Airport. The jets flew over, low and loud. Of course, Kelly wanted a closer look. He would sneak into the hangers that were within walking distance of his dad's Texaco to view WWII and Korean War vintage aircraft. By the time Kelly was in high school, his dad had sold the Texaco station and began running a car lot. He continued in auto sales simultaneously studying to become a commercial real estate broker. His mother taught in military school and afterwards worked in accounting for Sacs 5th Avenue. Kelly describes himself as a greaser back then, a motorcycle bum, but he was also a young man who was interested in Theater. This particular ambition would lead him to Janice.
At fifteen, Kelly got his first motorcycle, a 1964 Honda Dream 405. Kelly recalls, "My dad was working at the car dealership and one day a guy on a Honda Dream crashed it right in front of the dealership. He stood up, walked into the showroom, brushed himself off, and said, 'I think I need a car'. My dad gave him $25 and brought this wrecked Dream home. We pounded out the fenders and tried to fix it back up. But it was a laughing stock, as soon as my buddies saw it, they said, "That's not even a Super Hawk! That's no good! Look at that thing! HA! HA!" I knew then I had to have a Super Hawk so I bought one (Honda's version of a Laverda)".
Eventually, Kelly bought another Dream and still has it to this day.
It was in 1967 when Kelly and Janice met in the theater department at East Los Angeles College while in class. Theater students were required to do a pantomime scene and one by one they got up from their seats to perform. It was Janice's turn to do hers. Afterwards, the teacher criticized her performance. Janice recalls, "He said to me,"
"You should have done this, you should have done that."
"When he was through, I wasn't feeling very good because he said more negative things than positive things. I went back to my seat feeling dejected. Kelly happened to be sitting in front of me, he turned around and simply said to me,"
"Well, I liked it."
"I thought -I like that guy! He was wearing a cowboy hat, boots and buckle. You see, when I was growing up I was attracted to John Wayne, someone I viewed as very masculine. I always dreamed of being a sheriff's wife on a TV western. Then to find out that he had that Irish name I always wanted, I was in love right then."
As Janice told her story, Kelly couldn't help but chime in, "It was a done deal", he said with a smile.
Kelly thought Janice was pretty cute. At the time, however, he was walking around the campus holding some other girl's hand, so Janice thought he was taken and held back her feelings for this cowboy-biker. Janice worked in the theater teacher's office as a typist and handling telephone communication. It was a busy atmosphere as students would come in for scripts and other business. She spotted Kelly frequently, but kept to herself. They got to know each other much better in a play they did together and also when they were building sets, working on scenery, and other various student jobs. At one point, Janice measured Kelly for a costume - the sparks were beginning to fly both directions. As a thank you, in a sweet and innocent way, he kissed her on the cheek. They were nineteen at the time, both broke, so their first date was for coffee at Winchell's Donut House. Inevitably they became closer and closer.
One of Kelly's many part time jobs was as a security guard at the Christmas tree lot near the college. He was provided a trailer there to stay in overnight. Janice, as busy as she was with school, her jobs, and home life, somehow found time to visit Kelly there. Let's just say their romance grew into mutual love among aisles of Christmas trees, glowing holiday lights, and much farther above, twinkling stars.
Kelly proposed, but he and Janice agreed to wait a few more years to get married. Among his many ambitions, Kelly had an interest in Emergency Medical Services and found a job at an area hospital. Janice continued working her Disneyland job. Shortly after they married they moved to Arizona.
When Kelly was interviewed for a job with RS Hanna, he used Janice's dad Albert as reference. Albert said, "Tell you one thing about that boy, he is not afraid to work."
Kelly was hired as a salesman for distribution of pneumatic fastening systems for the Phoenix division of Swingline. Janice started working as a rental agent at Dollar Rent-a-Car. She worked there three years and during that time had a chance to meet celebrities such as 3 Dog Night and The Band. She liked the job until new management came in and she found herself in disagreement with their operating procedures. She quit and continued her college education.
In 1972, Kelly was transferred to become manager of the Southern Arizona Tucson office. Janice was hired on as bookkeeper for Valley National Bank. The McCarthy's bought a home, and with the birth of their son Shane, planned to settle down. However, by 1974 the bottom fell out in the construction industry and Kelly's future with the company in Arizona looked dismal. He heard of an opportunity in Portland Oregon for area manager of Oregon and Washington. He got the job and they moved to the Northwest. Janice continued her college education at Portland State University towards a BS degree in Theater Arts. In addition to his regular job, Kelly worked as a volunteer ambulance paramedic. He felt a great deal of satisfaction in that line of work and wanted a paid position. By this time, daughter Terra had been born and they both agreed that he would take care of the kids and support Janice until she earned her degree, then, she would work, so he could get the job that he wanted. That's exactly what they did. Janice says, "He was fantastic when I went to college, he would watch the kids all the time. He would always be sure to take care of them when I needed to study".
Kelly's first interest in paramedics went back many years. He wanted Paramedic Certification. Janice, with her BS degree diploma in hand, began watching the kids at home for a year. Kelly started taking classes toward his certification. As time passed, Janice worked selling life insurance for a while, but found it took too much time away from family, as did her high school teacher job. With the help and encouragement of friend Laura Conheim, Janice began working part time for PSU. The job seemed just right. She could drop kids off for school and be home at night for family.
Kelly began working for a company called Surgical Sales selling medical equipment while he finished up his paramedic certification. By 1977, he had moved on to Metro West Ambulance. The McCarthy family had bought a home and settled down in Rivergrove as their jobs seemed to be holding and the kids were in school.
Kelly hadn't had a bike since college, but his interest in motorcycles returned. He bought a dysfunctional Triumph Cub and started to fiddle with it, but it wouldn't run. Still wanting a ridable bike, he noticed an ad for a Triumph Trident. Tom Ruttan ran the ad. Tom also owned an Indian, a Thunderbird and had a garage full of British motorcycle parts. Kelly didn't buy the Trident, but he and Tom became friends (Tom did help Kelly find a bike).
A neighbor in Rivergrove told Kelly about an opening of a new bike shop, Euro Sport, opening in Tigard. They would sell Ducati, Cagiva, Guzzi, and Triumph. As it turned out, Kelly became friends with the people who ran Euro Sport, John Foeston, Gary Lowe, and Dick Winningstad (of note: Kelly was there on the day they opened and the day they closed).
Meanwhile, Tom had bought a small parts inventory in 1981 and ended up with so many parts that he started advertising. Kelly helped him catalog them. The phone rang off the hook. Tom started buying other inventories. Kelly tells how this small business began to grow, "We cataloged them together, filling his garage to the ceiling and created this business. When we ran out of room in his garage we moved to the Burnham Business Park in Tigard. We had a garage door, a little office, and 850 square foot of warehouse space. We called it Cascade Classic Cycles. We started being open on weekends. At the time, it was Tom's baby actually."
Soon, the McCarthy's had the idea to set up a retail shop selling motorcycle magazines, T-shirts, manuals and such in the front office while Tom continued selling the hard parts, the old Triumph stuff.
Then, Euro Sport lost the lease for their building. Gary Lowe, now the primary owner, called up Kelly, and out of the blue, asked him if he liked Moto Guzzi and if he wanted to be a dealer. Kelly remembers, "I said yeah, how do you do that? How on earth would we get the franchise?"
He said, "Well, all right, I'll make a phone call."
Gary called Fran Contaldi, the Guzzi distributor, and told him, "These guys can take a dealership here in Portland, I'm moving to the coast."
"The next thing I knew, Contaldi called me. That got us the franchise."
Kelly and Janice called their little business Moto Italia and the two companies cohabited. For a new name, they combined Moto Italia with Cascade Classic Cycles to come up with Cascade Moto Classics.
Tom had been an engineer with Tektronics for many years until Intel made him an offer he couldn't refuse which would also give him more time with his family. He sold Kelly and Janice his entire inventory of motorcycle parts and got out of the motorcycle business.
Janice tells about selling their first Moto Guzzi, "We sold our first Guzzi to a fellow who lived up the street by the name of Mike Jake. Mike has passed away since then, but in 1993 he bought a California LAPD. We sold it to him while we were still at the Burnham Business Park. I remember Kelly calling me up at work at PSU."
He said, "This guy wants to buy a motorcycle and I don't know what to do!"
I asked Kelly, "Can you talk him into coming in tomorrow, so I can read the DMV manual, because I don't know how to do the work?"
He said, "This guy has to have it now, he won't wait!"
"So, I had to rush to the shop to look over the DMV manual. I'm reading it as I'm trying to write up Mike's paper work. He had cancer and said he always wanted a motorcycle, and that he wasn't going to let anything stop him now! That's why he didn't want to wait and wanted the bike right then. He had a couple of happy years."
"Well, not only was the dealership a big surprise but what happens when you get a dealership is a bigger business surprise", Kelly said.
They were immediately thrown out of the Burnham Business Park because of zoning. Kelly continues, "You can make nuclear warheads in the Burnham Business Park, you can run a nude bar, but you cannot sell Moto Guzzi in the Burnham Business Park. You can sell parts and service them, but you cannot sell motorcycles. Zoning is why there's not more dealers (the municipalities control the locations of dealerships). So, when we found out we had to move and find something in the right zone, we saw a big for sale sign on this little house on Hall Boulevard. It was a two-bedroom house, but it had been a car leasing business. It was zoned right. We moved our inventory over and knocked out some walls so we could have a show room."
Cascade Moto Classics sold Moto Guzzi motorcycles and parts for old Triumphs from Tom's inventory. Moto Guzzi went through some tough times. There were years when Cascade was shipped only a couple of bikes a year to sell and were beginning to think they may have to give up the franchise. The new Triumphs were coming to America. The customers they were selling the old parts to kept asking when they were going to get the new Triumphs. Kelly and Janice thought the building was too small and didn't think Triumph would consider giving them a franchise. Janice recalls their first contact with Triumph, "We got a package and we were real intimidated by the package. They wanted to know the Square footage and wanted pictures of our showroom. I thought, Oh what the heck, so I filled it out and sent it in. I didn't think anything would come of it. To our surprise, they made room for us on their visitation list while looking for prospective franchises."
Kelly tells the story of Triumph coming to the shop, "They said they would be here at 7:00 A.M. because that's the only time they could fit us in. They tried to get out of it too! They had driven by, took one look, and called us to get out of the meeting (they had a meeting with a certain Harley-Davidson dealer across town scheduled after meeting with Cascade and that's where they thought the franchise was going to go). I knew they wanted 1000 square feet of dedicated Triumph display. The whole cotton pickin' building wasn't 1000 square feet! Janice had the place looking like a million bucks. She had decorated the building and really laid it on thick, even baked cookies. In anticipation, we filled the building with Tom's restored Triumphs. The floor was black-and-white checkerboard, very clean looking. We had the Isle of Man tape in and running on the video. The director of Triumph at the time, Englishman Mike Lock and new Rep Tom Hicks came in the door at 7:00 A.M. Mike said it looked really charming, just like the shops in England. The Rep was looking around and was not particularly thrilled, thinking it probably isn't going to work."
Mike said, "Tom, look at this, look at this!" This is what me grandfather's got right here! This is me grandfather's bike right here! Mike again yelled out, Tom, Tom, look at this! Where did you get this?!"
It was Tom's 1940 Speed Twin Canadian Military, totally restored. It would knock your eyes out. So, Mike is going ape over this stuff and he sees the Isle of Man tape running. He says, "I'm in this tape! This is me! I'm right here!"
Mike was a Guzzi enthusiast also. This turns into a general bull session, not a dealer visit, not a prep-visit for a potential dealer. Pretty soon these guys look at their watches and say, "Oh, we're late! We gotta go, we gotta go!"
"We didn't really talk much business. Mike asked me what we'd do if we didn't get the Triumph franchise. I said exactly what we're doing now, selling Guzzi motorcycles and old Triumph parts. I told him whoever picks up the franchise around here that we'd be willing to sell their used bikes. We carry the flags, Italian and English. That was it, they left to go check out a bigger dealer with a longer history."
About two days later Triumph called back and offered them a franchise. Not only were new Triumphs now offered in Oregon, a Guzzi dealer was saved.
Since 9/11 business has been down. They have actually sold more motorcycles since moving into the new building in Beaverton, but unfortunately their overhead tripled. Kelly feels if the economy improves just a little bit then they'll be doing pretty well. Right now, they're in a holding mode for the rest of this winter and just lost another sale due to a layoff. They're just not seeing the winter business they had last year when they had a lot more services done and had to turn away at least one call a day. I was surprised they weren't booked for service and had to lay off their C Bench mechanic.
Cascade employs some people that are really important to them. Ace mechanic, Randle Henningson, still works for them part time and helps out whenever they're in a jam (as of this moment, he is doing a motor on a Laverda). Master Wrench, Ron Hopkins, who is quite well known in the area, came from the race shop, Northwest Motorcycle. He works the dyno and builds race motors, but is also a general line A Bench mechanic. Cascade worked out a deal with Ron where he would use his dyno and have his own spot in the shop where he could do race motors and work as an A Bench whenever needed.
Accompanying Janice behind the counter is Liz Rubin, who previously worked at a bike shop in Wyoming. Recently, Liz was given her first motorcycle, a 1995 Honda Night Hawk, from Cascade's computer expert and Guzzi rider, Mike Butler. She's already ridden it over three-thousand miles this past season. Janice says of Liz, "She does all the counter work and sales work and much more for us. She is really good with the customers. I feel like we are a family. Customers think that Liz is our daughter too, but that's how I feel about her anyway."
Family has played a big role at Cascade. Shane worked for them as parts manager when he would come home from college for summer breaks (he went on to work at a BMW/Triumph shop in Arizona until he was hired on with Ratheon). Terra helps out on the retail side as well, and is trying her hand at selling motorcycles. Like her brother and father, she is also a motorcyclist.
Don and Stella McCarthy, still healthy as horses, frequent Cascade regularly. Don enjoys doing the gardening and mowing the lawn. Stella hand knits Guzzi and Triumph stocking caps that people are buying from as far away as Nebraska.
On serving their customers Janice says, "I like motorcycles, but I especially like the people that ride the motorcycles that we sell: they are very friendly; very warm; easy to get to know; they become friends, instead of customers; ninety-eight percent of them I enjoy seeing when they come in the door. It's like seeing an old friend again. It's hard to please everybody, but we try to please as many as we can. We try to treat people the way we would like to be treated if we were on the other side of the counter. To me, everyone should come to expect personal service. The sad part is, there are a lot of people who want that personal service, but would rather go to discount places because they save money. We can't discount like the big companies can. Sometimes it hurts when you hear somebody bought a bike somewhere else and got a discount, but they want to come to you for all the service because they like hanging out here. There is not much you can do about that."
I asked Kelly what his feelings were on the future of Moto Guzzi. He said:
"Moto Guzzi is going where the professionalism and money can take it properly. Guzzi hasn't had that since the Golden Years of Carlo Guzzi and the famous designers he had working for him in a company that had its last major successes in the 1960's. That is where Guzzi is positioned again right now. Guzzi has had a sliding history of ownership, by De Tomaso, who was well beyond his prime, and Guzzi was not a focus for him in his world of cars and big money. Guzzi never got the attention it needed. Then, Guzzi had a series of speculator owners, the position Ducati is in now. It's just a football, and they are going to throw it around to see if anybody wants to buy it. Ivano Beggio is the correct person. It cost him a lot of money to get Guzzi away from the Trident/Rowan Group. To the world, the Guzzi name is kind of known, but it really doesn't have a following. You know, no one's ever heard of it, or they think they might have heard of it. You tell them about Guzzi and they say, "Oh Yeah, I remember that."
By the way, Moto Guzzi and Beggio know this: He knows how important the Guzzi Club is to Guzzi staying alive. We are very lucky to have Bill Martin, a local man, who has been hired by Guzzi to run the show here in America. I want to tell you, that's like having someone from your neighborhood become President of The United States. We've had his ear. He's had three meetings with us, at this table, he sat right here, with us, for three hours. He listened to everything, wrote everything down. He said first you have to structure it, it has no structure. That's what he's working on now. Beggio can resurrect Guzzi and make it into a flourishing company again. And that's what he's going to do."
In an interview with Cycle World, Beggio said maximum financial effort will come between 2003 and 2005. They expect to be fully geared up by 2005.
Kelly, "I would like to thank the Guzzi Club (MGNOC). If it wasn't for the Guzzi Club we would do very poorly with Guzzi."
Janice, "I'd like to thank all our customers and friends because they've kept us in business. Their enthusiasm and support has been great and the Moto Guzzi Club have been wonderful too."