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The Cinnamon Stick Classic Chopper from Jamie

A Self-Made Man Creates World-class Choppers and Survives the Recession

By Bandit with photos by George Najar
11/13/2012


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The wind whistled over the hills surrounding the small berg of Big Bend, Wisconsin in the fall of 1986 when Jamie Strasser, the son of a pair of self-employed gas station owners, opened his first body shop in a storage shed. He was barely 18 years of age. When he was 14, his father gave him a ’73 Camaro, which he restored. He was already well-versed in the art of body repair and mechanics, enough so he contained the confidence to open his own dinky shop in an industrial park, on Industrial Avenue.

His storage shed had only electricity, a phone and a heater; no water, or toilet, just a square corner office, block walls, concrete deck shop and a roll-up door. “I brought my own water every day in jugs,” Jamie said, “for drinking and to clean the shop for painting.” A 1969 Camaro was the first car he painted in his new shop. Self-taught, Jamie learned how to operate dolly hammers, TIG weld, form steel, weld quarter panels, cut roof pans, straighten door panels, perform structural collision repairs and fix rust-damaged floor boards. He worked in the storage shed until 2002 to build his entrepreneurial acumen and save the funds to buy land and build his own 7,000 square foot shop in the town of 1,275, just 17 miles from Milwaukee.



“My phone bill now is more than my shop rent was then,” Jamie said.

But a crucial change wafted over Jamie in 1995, like fairy dust over Snow White, or metal flakes over Arlen Ness, or pearl powder dust over John Kosmoski, the creator of House of Kolors. There comes a delicate crossroads in a man’s life, altering his mental direction forever, and his life becomes immersed in two wheels. For some, they start to ride and never stop; for others, it’s speed and performance. And for the creative spirit, it’s the chopper mantra, the chromed Holy Grail.



Jamie bought his first Harley in 1995, a Bad Boy Springer, customized it slightly and painted it. Then a friend rolled into his shop with a stretched tank, 180-rear-tire chopper, and his creative focus found its target. His brain cells already danced along perfectly shaped lines like that of a woman’s body. The flow of something as simple as the lines of a contoured tank and a severely raked frame spoke to him, like a master chef speaks of new sprouts in an herb garden. By 1997, Jamie kicked off his first sleek ground-up, stretched-out chopper.



His painting skills elevated when he met and started to work with Rage Ray, a pinstriper, who is now a Harley-Davidson factory designer. “He was a master with an airbrush,” Jamie said. Then he met and collaborated with Vince Balistreri out of Orlando, Florida, who taught Jamie graphic arts techniques. Vince was also a noted pinstripe artist.



Jamie’s shop in a suburb of Milwaukee was suddenly devoted to custom motorcycles and the ongoing search for long swoopy chopper perfection. His first ground-up chopper set him up as the leading edge builder in his area, and he began to compete in regional custom bike shows. By 2003, he became an American Iron Horse Dealer. In 2005, he took on the Big Dog Franchise and expanded his shop to 10,000 square feet, and then expanded again to 15,000 square feet in 2009 to allow for more inventory. In 2006, he was awarded the Big Bear dealership, and also sold Big Mike choppers. From 2003 to 2007, Jamie’s Customs & Power Sports rested on the top of the chopper world in his region. He was flying and annually building anything his mind could dream up.

Then in the fall of 2007, Jamie noticed a financial shift and profits slipped. By 2008, recession reality set in. The custom motorcycle industry was truly collapsing, and Jamie shut the dealer aspects down and began to search for affordable merchandise, such as used Harleys, and even used metric bikes. He brought the snow mobile business back in the winter, and relied heavily on service.



“I had to cut staff, work longer hours, and look for help who understood multi-tasking,” Jamie said. He went to war with the economy in an effort to survive. He checked his ability to capitalize his company, and bought out his sales partner, Frank. He paid down his debt, and hung on, praying new regulations wouldn’t sink him completely.



“I feel like the government is against the entrepreneur,” Jamie said, “and I’m perceived as a criminal being a small business owner.”



He survived, but walks a tenuous path today, uncertain of the future. But let’s back up to better times in 2006, when he built the Cinnamon Stick as a shop promo bike and show competitor.



“I built it in a different time,” Jamie said. “It was a time of dynamic custom motorcycle competition against pre-manufactured custom bikes such as Big Dogs. I had to prove I wasn’t an assembler, but a true chopper craftsman.”



He built every item on the sleek predator with the Cinnamon name - the tanks, the headlight, the handlebars, fenders, and panels. “I wanted the driveline exposed,” said Jamie. “Less was more.” He wanted a rigid frame line but with rear suspension, so the fender was mounted to the swingarm, but removable.



During the chopper heyday, the American Iron Horse crew flew him to Fort Worth, Texas for a dealer meeting. They had some downtime so he cruised a local mall, but all the stores were closed except one, the cigar and knife shop. He discovered the blade mounted to the down tubes and knew it had to become an integral piece of the Stick.



Back to current times. I had the pleasure to see this bike for the first time at the 2012 AMD show at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. Produced by Bob Kay and Jeff Najar of Biker Pros, I flew in from Bonneville to check the action and help judge the bikes. After all these years, the Cinnamon Stick is still a rolling example of fine custom motorcycle art, and a stellar representative of a time past. I awarded him with the Bikernet Editor’s Choice Trophy. The bike is still as pristine as it was in 2007.

Choppers forever, forever Choppers

--Bandit






Bikernet.com Extreme Tech Chart

Regular Stuff


Owner: JAMIE STRASSER


Bike Name: CINNAMON STICK

City/State: BIG BEND, WI

Builder: JAMIE STRASSER

City/state: BIG BEND, WI

Company Info: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS
Address: W228 S6925 ENTERPRISE DRIVE, BIG BEND, WI 53103
Phone: 262-662-4511


Web site: WWW.JAMIESCUSTOMS.COM
E-mail: JAMIE@JAMIESCUSTOMS.COM


Fabrication: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Manufacturing: Jamie

Welding: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Machining: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS




Engine

Year: 2007

Make: S&S

Model: SIDEWINDER

Displacement: 124 CUBIC INCHES

Builder or Rebuilder: ROB SCHOPF – 2 BOSS PERFORMANCE

Cases: S&S

Case finish: POLISHED

Barrels: S&S

Bore: 4.25

Pistons: S&S

Barrel finish: CAST IRON

Lower end: S&S

Stroke: S&S

Rods: S&S

Heads: S&S

Head finish: POLISH

Valves and springs: S&S

Pushrods: S&S

Cams: S&S

Lifters: S&S



Carburetion: S&S SUPER G

Air cleaner: D&M / JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Exhaust: HOTCH / JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Mufflers: N/A

Other: CUSTOM BUILT HEAT SHIELDS & ACCENTS



Transmission

Year: 2007

Make: BAKER

Gear configuration: 2.94 1ST / .86 6TH

Primary: B.D.L / INDEPENDANT

Clutch: B.D.L.

Final drive: CHAIN

Kicker: N/A



Frame

Year: 2007

Builder: INDEPENDENT CYCLE

Style or Model: LOW LIFE

Stretch: 7 INCHES

Rake: 40 DEGREE NECK RAKE / 6 TREES




Front End

Make: MEAN STREET

Model: SMOOTH 47

Year: 2006

Length: STOCK

Mods: MACHINED TRIPLE TREES




Sheet metal

Tanks: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Fenders: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Panels: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Oil tank: INDEPENDENT CYCLE

Other: HEADLIGHT - HANDLEBARS




Paint

Sheet metal: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Molding: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Base coat: CINNAMON STICK (PPG)

Graphics: CANDY RED / TANGERINE - BLACK

Type: DUPONT / HOUSE OF KOLOR / PPG

Frame: CINNAMON STICK WITH GRAPHICS

Molding: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Base coat: PPG VIBRANT COLOR

Graphics or art: FLOWING GRAPHICS THAT COVER EVERY PIECE

Special effects: BRUSHED WOOD AND METAL LOOK

Pinstriping: BLACK AND AIR BRUSH



Wheels

Front

Make: PERFORMANCE MACHINE 3-D WIDOWMAKER CHROME

Size: 21X2.15

Brake calipers: PERFORMANCE MACHINE 6 PISTON CONTOUR

Brake rotor(s): PERFORMANCE MACHINE

Tire: METZLER ME880 21



Rear

Make: PERFORMANCE MACHINE 3-D WIDOWMAKER CHROME

Size: 18

Brake calipers: PERFORMANCE MACHINE 4 PISTON

Brake rotor: PERFORMANCE MACHINE

Pulley: PERFORMANCE MACHINE CHAIN

Tire: METZLER ME-880 300




Controls

Foot controls: MID-SHIFT INDEPENDENT CYCLE

Finish: CHROME

Master cylinder: PERFORMANCE MACHINE

Brake lines: RUSSELL PRO SYSTEM




Handlebar controls: PERFORMANCE MACHINE

Finish: CHROME

Clutch Cable: RUSSELL PRO SYSTEM HYDRAULIC

Brake Lines RUSSELL PRO SYSTEM

Shifting: MID-SHIFT

Kickstand: MATT HOTCH



Electrical

Ignition: COMPUFIRE

Ignition switch: CYCLE VISIONS

Coils: DYNA

Regulator: COMPUFIRE

Charging: 32 AMP

Starter: PYTHON

Wiring: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Harness: CYCLE SMITH

Headlight: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Taillight: NASI L.E.D

Accessory lights: HALOGEN & L.E.D.

Electrical accessories: CUSTOM

Switches: CUSTOM

Battery: ODDYSEE





What’s Left

Seat: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Mirror(s): N/A

Gas caps: FLUSH

Handlebars: JAMIE’S CUSTOMS

Grips: EDDIC TROTTA

Pegs: IND

Oil filter: S&S

Oil cooler: N/A

Oil lines: CUSTOM

Fuel filter: K&L

Fuel Lines: S&S

Throttle: BARNETT

Throttle cables: BARNETT

Fasteners: LOTS




Specialty items: HAND FABRICATED METAL WORK TO FRAME – KNIFE MOUNTED TO DOWN TUBE OF FRAME – LEGENDS AIR RIDE




Comments: BIKE DESIGN TO LONG, LOW, SLEEK WITH PREDATOR LIKE DESIGN




Credits: THANKS TO WIFE DENISE AND DAUGHTER ALEXIE AND THE STAFF AT JAMIE’S CUSTOMS


 
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Reader Comments


Mega cool choppers like this will never go out of style! Well done and thanks for running it.

Doc Robinson
Somerton Park, South Australia, Australia
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Editor Response Hey Doc,

The craftsmanship is amazing. Maybe it's not a home-built bobber, but is sure is a sleek work of art, and they can't fade away. Choppers forever!
--Bandit

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