Flying Tiger Motorcycles A Fallback – And A Success – for Missouri Couple

“Our clientele is as diverse as you can imagine,” said Eric Bess of Flying Tiger Motorcycles. “From the dirt-poor college student, to doctors and lawyers, to the guy down the street who has to save up $30 for brake pads.”

The economic downturn in California left a couple with longtime roots in the Midwest searching for answers and alternatives. After losing their jobs within a year of each other, Bess and partner Teresa Swanson returned to Maplewood, Missouri and opened Flying Tiger Motorcycles, a shop which specializes in Japanese motorcycles from the 1960s and 70s.

A natural choice for Bess, the co-owner of Flying Tiger Motorcycles was formerly a demo rider and worked in tech services and quality assurance position for Kawasaki Motors. The shop specializes in servicing any make of bike, but they focus on selling vintage Japanese models. The pair take in some of the bikes on consignment and they comb the internetosphere for hard-to-find parts.

“We thought we’d just refurbish and sell old bikes,” Bess said. “It grew pretty fast. It was a tire change here and an oil change there, and it just grew from there.”

Turns out the couple have stumbled onto a niche which is finding adherents far and wide.

Andrew Balog of Grand Rapids, MI, recently stopped by the Maplewood shop to pick up a couple T-shirts and see the shop. How did Balog manage to find an obscure motorcycle shop hundreds of miles from his home?  He found Flying Tiger on Facebook.

“My brother lives in the area, so I thought I’d come by and look around. It’s really great old stuff that nobody has at home, and I got a tour,” Balog said.

Bess says people like Balog are just the sort he had in mind when he initially began thinking about opening the shop.

“We want to help people feel comfortable about getting into motorcycles,” Bess said. “It’s a great way to escape and be out in your surroundings and become a part of the environment. It’s just about being on a bike.”

Photos by Ryan Martin

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