Bobby Genise, sole owner and operator of John’s Custom Cycles in Woodside Queens, has always made his living wrenching on old motorcycles. His simple formula for a successful career is ‘do what you love, the rest don’t matter!’ Now 65-years-old, he has something to teach the rest of us about listening to our hearts and focusing on what makes us happy. His sense of satisfaction is contagious and a small crowd gathers each day to watch him work, swap stories, and get another classic bike out on the road!
Anyone who sees this video can use mapquest to find Bobby (69-08 49th Ave in Woodside NY 11377) but a few seasoned riders may be asking, ‘if this guys such a good mechanic, why haven’t I heard of him?’ It doesn’t help that he never placed an ad, or put up a website, or invested in a high traffic location. Even worse, his best customers try to keep him a closely guarded secret.
I only found him after a few mechanics tried and failed to fix my Triumph motorcycle. The last one put me on to Bobby.
Only those fanatic enough to really love motorcycles, eat, sleep and dream motorcycles know Bobby. In truth, Bobby’s a lot more famous than he lets on. He’s been cited in newspaper articles and most recently was featured in Lee Klancher’s book Motorcycle Dream Garages in which he is touted one of the last real garages in the country. During an interview about the book, Jay Leno zero’s in on John’s and pays it the ultimate gear-head compliment.
Tell you the truth I like it when something comes in, when someone else tries fixing it and screws it all up, I like fixing them, ‘cause it’s more of a challenge. The average person comes in for a tune up, its all minor stuff.
When something comes in where he says I had it at (clears throat) whatever shop and it don’t work right – and to have the guy call up and say ‘runs perfect now,’ that I enjoy doing, ya know.
What you pay for is what you get. If you come in for a clutch job and I quote ya, just say, it’s a hundred dollars. If it takes me four hours, doesn’t make a bit of difference, I quoted the price and that’s it. I stand behind what I say and what I write down.
In the beginning I was playing with bicycles, you know, working on them, truing wheels, up, we were selling motorcycles and bicycles at the same time, so my brother used to do the motorcycles and I was 14 at the time, I was helping him with the bicycles then I got more involved in motorcycles and I’ve been doing that ever since and I enjoy it.
Going to school, that was my reward, you know, coming down to the motorcycle shop, after I did my homework I was allowed to go to the motorcycle shop. Homework had to be first.
People go to work, I go to have fun. ‘Cause I never take my job home with me ‘cause I really don’t have a job. This is more like play.
Very few people can say they love going to work. I enjoy going to work. I’d like to go another 25 years doing the same thing. I have no complaints. When I want to take off, I take off. If I don’t feel like coming in, I don’t open up.
Two shops right across, one to my left and one down the block, they both went out (out of business) because they only want to cater to new vehicles, and you don’t make money on new vehicles because nothing breaks.
The old ones, nobody wants to work on them – because most mechanics today, if you can’t plug it in and it tells you what’s wrong with it, you’re screwed. Sorry about that but you’re screwed! ‘Cause the computer tells you everything. The old ones, you gotta use your mind.