Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Visit With Gordon Razee

Monday Jerry rolled out his Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter "Thor". We motored down to the local motorcycle "shop", Razee's motorcycle store in North Kingstown and ogled all the bikes in stock. The store sells a lot of marquees including Honda, Kawa, KTM, BMW and Moto Guzzi and is currently run by Gordon Razee, son of founder Ralph. This excerpt from a recent article in the Providence Journal reports . . .

He (Gordon) was 2 years old in 1947 when his father opened a roadside shop in North Kingstown selling Indian motorcycles and British BSAs. He later moved to Broad Street in Providence (“where the highway is now”) before moving back to North Kingstown. The shop has been at its present location since 1963.

There is a Herman connection to this place and the Razee's. Jerry purchased his Vulcan there in 2001, and back in "the day" both my brothers Jerry and Frank hung out and rode with the elder Razee while they were in the Navy and stationed at nearby Davisville Naval Base. Frank purchased a new BSA Goldstar from Ralph around 1957, Jerry piloting a Matchless and an AJS. As we were roaming around the place, we were approached by Gordon. Jerry introduced Jay and I and we chatted for quite a while, moving from the sales floor into Gordon's office where Gordon narrated a brief history of the place, illustrated by reference to the many framed photographs of himself his father and the store in various incarnations. The affable Gordon then invited us for a private tour of his vintage motorcycle collection, which is located off-site in a warehouse which serves as the receiving, storage and set-up facility for the store.

It took us a couple of days to get back together, but yesterday we reconvened and followed Gordon over to the warehouse. Now let me say this as preamble to the report of the visit... awesome, thrilling, incredible. As Gordon rolled up the large overhead door to the warehouse we were expecting a nice little collection of old BSA's and Triumph's. What we encountered were literally HUNDREDS of wonderful motorcycles including the requisite Beezers, Trumpets and Hondas (collections organized by marguee) plus Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Morini, NSU, Matchless, Velocette, Vincent, Vespa, AJS, Puch, BMW, Ural, Norton, Dot, Ariel. Lots of them. Look at the pictures... the bikes are stacked three high against the wall, and more lined up on the floor! Most all of them are in ridable stock condition, a few in a state of arrested decay, several completely and beautifully restored and concours-ready. Gordon guided us through the collections, lovingly reciting the history, method of acqusition, and specific provenance of many of the more notable machines. Photos were a little difficult since the bikes were parked so close together it was difficult to separate one from the other.

As Jay, Jerry and I stared in open-mouthed awe, we each focused on machines that we have not seen in years, and which evoked pleasant moto-memories. I spied a BSA B40 350 Enduro Star just like the one that brother Frank used to have (and I rode in the woods when I was in high school), complete with high pipe and alloy tank. Jay stroked a wonderful Triumph TR6. Jerry gravitated to the old BMW's, gushing how he always wanted an R69S just like this. Reaching the rear wall of the warehouse, I was prepared to wander back through the collections and take more photos, when Gordon rolled up another overhead door and led us into an annex area. Surprise! More motorcycles! And shelves and shelves of discrete components... tanks, fenders, headlights, bars, wheels, fairings, motors, most paint-peeling and rusty, all incredibly collectible and restorable. Ever heard the term barn-find? There was an almost complete but dissembled motorcycle (NSU maybe?) completely rusted on a wooden pallet. The bike was threaded over, under and through with vines and covered with dirt. Priceless.

As time away from the shop was becoming an issue for Gordon, we wandered back to the front while Gordon closed doors and turned off lights. I took a last look at the immaculate BSA Rocket 3 that is near completion in the small restoration shop (drool), and we bid goodbye to Gordon with profuse thanks for his time and hospitality as he headed back to the store. What a guy.

(Incidentally, the pictures are clickable to zoom)

1 comment:

Ted said...

WOAH!!!! That's absolutely INCREDIBLE!!!