Written by Renee Doboy Friday, 12 November 2010 00:00
It was an exciting occasion on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m., when the doors opened for a cocktail reception, celebrating the Grand Opening of Billy Joel’s 20th Century Motorcycles. This by-invitation-only event afforded guests a sneak preview of his shop. Among the guests were County Executive Edward Mangano, and Congressman Peter King. Billy’s dog, a sweet-faced pug, named Sabrina was also present for the festivities.
The showroom is located at 101 Audrey Avenue, in the previous location of Carpets by Barnao. The shop is primarily intended to draw in bike enthusiasts, so that they may glean ideas about how to customize their own bikes. It is filled with bike memorabilia, and also vintage signs, and gas pumps. The spacious room, which has a high ceiling and multiple skylights, houses Joel’s impressive collection of bikes including vintage British and Italian bikes from the World War II era, as well as modern Harley Davidsons, which have been rebuilt to impart more of a retro-look.
Mr. Joel said that currently, his favorite bike is a BSA ‘99 Kawasaki, which was “turned into what they call a Bobber.” He quickly added, “but every day it’s something different. I like them all for different reasons.” He concluded that there are many variables which determine what bike will be his favorite at any given time.
Mr. Joel was walking with the aid of a cane, due to a congenital hip problem, although it hardly seemed to slow him down. He was constantly making his way around the large showroom, animatedly answering questions, joking around, and smiling for photographs. Mr. Joel doesn’t really think of himself as a collector, because he rides all of his bikes. “I only keep the ones I can use and ride,” he says. “It ended up becoming a collection, which is one of the reasons I’m doing this; to share my good fortune with other people. Before this, they sat in my garage. They look nice, but I’m the only one seeing them. I thought, ‘why not share my collection?’ I ride them all; which is a good way to not put too many miles on any of them,” he added, with a grin.
Mr. Joel admitted that he does some of the rebuilding work on the bikes, himself, but that Alex Puls, his mechanic is responsible for the majority of the labor. Mr. Puls advised that although some of the work on the bikes is handled by Lighthouse Harley Davidson, in Huntington Station, he is the only full-time employee.
It is Mr. Joel’s hope that 20th Century Cycles has a positive effect on other businesses in Oyster Bay. He explained “I figure, the more foot-traffic, the more window shopping in town, the better for everyone. When I was a kid, this town was very lively. There were a lot of mom and pop shops. For awhile they were gone, and I’m starting to see them come back, now. I hope we can be part of the revitalization of the village.
“I’m hoping this street will be able to continue right into the park and to the waterfront, because that would be the best thing for the town; open it right up to the water. That’s what everybody wants.” Mr. Joel intends to play an active role in this endeavor.