Late last January, during a blizzard on a Sunday night in New York City, I met Rob Camardo at the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show
while he was promoting his Garage Leathers’ saddlebags. I was talking with him about becoming a sponsor of the Smoke Out Rally
, the Choppafest of the East Coast, and while looking at his premium-grade, American-made saddlebags, a pound of his Road Rage Coffee rolled across the floor of his booth.
His java is packaged in an ultra-cool, retro-looking bag that smells so good when opened that even Juan Valdez would salivate. Rob and I have kept in touch since that night, and recently I called him and was surprised to find him in Nashville, TN, working on his next venture, the Garage Coffee Company Nashville coffee shop.
So who starts a business in this economic environment? I still haven’t figured it out, but it could be a gonzo caffeinated-addled serial entrepreneur. Rob decided to add a retail component to his business and found a perfect place in Nashville. The build-out started in the summer and completed with the first cup of Joe being poured in November.
Because his coffee, Road Rage, is a full-favor roast made from a blend of premium beans, it delivers a smooth and rich cup of coffee. Garage coffee is handcrafted in small batches that guarantee freshness in the cup. The espresso drinks have been the rage at the shop, selling five times more than standard cups of coffee.
Rob found a downtown location for his cafe in a history-rich, antiquated Marathon Motor Works automobile factory. The Marathon was an automobile manufactured from 1911 to 1914 in a block-long, 2 story building constructed in 1881.
The Garage Coffee Company Nashville shop was designed to look like a man cave with everything you’d want in your garage – including espresso. The walls are adorned with metal signs. A cut-down 32 Ford radiator shroud provides the coffee menu. A digital projector is situated above the counter projecting black and white movies on the far wall. Movie selections include On Any Sunday, any Steve McQueen flick, old Winston Cup races, motorcycle races, and any vintage two or four wheel shows.
Located next to the wall is a motorcycle lift doing double duty as a community table that has become a mid-morning perch for locals. Kitty corner to the wall is a 5-foot, metal Gulf Oil sign.
Lighting is handled by a row of drop-lights over the counter. When the morning sun hits the wall, it illuminates the café in a warm glow due to the rich natural wood ceilings and brick walls. Classic rock provides an audio vibe that is a contrasting note to the county music played nonstop in the city.
The biker community has begun to take notice with two-wheeled folks showing up on the weekends. In the store, enthusiasts can purchase coffee, t-shirts, mugs and Garage Leathers’ saddlebags.
One reason Rob really enjoys Nashville is because the riding season extends much longer than in his New Jersey enclave. His pride and joy is a 1997 Heritage Softail. It’s stock with only an upgrade of brown leather saddle and saddlebags as well as a set of ape hangers. It’s a sought-after model as the ‘57 Chevy powder-blue-over-cream color scheme was only available for that year.
When you see pictures of the outside of the Garage Coffee Company Nashville coffee shop you will often see a line of people out front. It’s not because the staff is slow on espresso, it’s because the antique store called Antique Archaeology (the business at the center of the television series American Pickers) is located right next door. Since Mike Wolf, the star of American Pickers, has signed on to be the spokesperson for Indian Motorcycles, Rob expects to see an influx of new American iron in the not-too distant future.
One of Rob’s proudest moments at the shoppe came when he had a conversation with a commercial pilot who flies internationally and who has gotten his morning jolt of two shots of espresso from the major cities in Europe. He looked Rob in the eye and said, “Your espresso is right up there; I like it.”
So if you are passing through Nashville, head toward downtown, just off interstate 65 at 1305 Clinton St. there’s a little slice of heaven called Garage Coffee Company, Nashville. If you are not coming to Nashville anytime soon and want a slice of heaven by the bag, then motor over to http://garagecoffeecompany.com/store
, and for $12.95 you can have a bag of beans delivered to your door.