Marlon Brando had one, Steve McQueen had one, and Rick Clark has a shop full of them.
What's the commodity?
Vintage British motorcycles.
When you enter Clark's Sandy Run Classic Cycles on U.S. 74 near Shelby, the first impression is of going back in time to a British motorcycle dealership from the late 1960s or early 1970s. Row after row of Triumph, BSA, and Norton motorcycles stand in gleaming array. The heady aroma of oil and rubber fills your nostrils. Vintage motorcycle posters festoon the walls. Helmets and other riding accessories fill the shelves. There's even a bright red English phone booth in one corner.
Out back, Clark has a repair shop where he and his assistants fix and fettle bikes that folks bring in for work that is becoming a lost art.
Clark grew up in the British bike business.
"My father, Charlie Clark, sold motorcycles," Rick says. "In 1969 he bought the Triumph dealership in Forest City. By 1971 he was selling $250,000 a year in bikes. He was so successful the Triumph company sent him on a trip to their factory in England and also Paris."
Rick was 14 years old in '71.
"Daddy had my brother Heath and I take the new bikes out of their crates and put them together," Clark said. "That's how we learned to work on them. A new one at that time cost $1,250."
Rick went to college and pursued a career as a youth counselor and social worker. That included 28 years with Cleveland County Schools. He got married to his wife Linda and had two daughters. The motorcycle bug bit again and he began looking for a place to open up a shop reminiscent of the one he, his brother, and father had once operated.
"I just wanted to tinker with them," he said.
About 15 years ago, Clark found what he was looking for, a shop right on US 74 on the banks of Sandy Run creek.
"The building had been a fish camp and in the early 1970s filmmaker Earl Owensby had shot a scene for the movie Hell Driver," Clark said. "Later it was a rug factory, then it was empty for a while."
The building is not pretentious, but just the right size for a down home shop where folks can pop in and talk vintage bikes.
"We have had customers come from as far away as Michigan to have us restore their bikes," Clark said. "We've also had folks come from Texas, Florida, and Arizona. We love visitors and hearing their stories."
At any time, there as many as forty or fifty vintage Britbikes in the shop. Outside a number of storage units hold even more bikes and parts.
Clark's customers all appreciate the styling and panache of the old bikes.
"A lot of them are professional people who remember the British bikes from when they were younger," said Clark. "Often, they want to relive that time."
Clark does whatever it takes to help those dreams come true.
"The riders have a passion for these bikes," he said. "The shop is my passion."
Clark wants to expand his love of the older bikes.
"I am looking at the possibility of opening up a larger place that would also be a museum closer to Shelby," he said.
In the meantime, Clark says his door is open at the Sandy Run location.
The current construction on the Shelby Bypass has cut off direct access to the shop from US74. To get there take Exit 193 just west of Shelby to McBrayer Homestead Road then a quick right onto Broadway Drive. The shop is at the end of that street. The phone number is 704-434-2421. Hours are Thursday and Friday 9-5 and Saturday 9-4.