Choppers and HOGS and togs, oh my
A NEW motorcycle rental business on Maui might never have come to pass, were it not for a one-time Florida businessman.
Kanaka Metal Horse opened April 9 on Huku Lii Place in Kihei after a whirlwind four months of preparation and build-out, said co-owner Richelle Garcia.
The business is something she and Kalani Kekona, Garcia's partner in the company and in life, "wanted to do for a long time," she said.
Kanaka Metal Horse is a franchise of Street Eagle LLC, a subsidiary of MBA Holdings Inc.
, based in Arizona. However, Street Eagle was founded in Florida in 1992 by Tim Lach.
"I sold it in 1996, we took it back in 2003 and I sold it again in 2005," he said.
A circuitous, cycle-centered career eventually brought him to Hawaii in 2000.
Lach runs a motorcycle dealership and boutique in Lihue -- initially a rental business that was called Street Eagle, but two weeks ago, it became Kauai Harley-Davidson/Buell, Lach said. The Street Eagle affiliation is going away, sold as it was, lock, stock and double-barrel exhaust.
That means Maui's fledgling Street Eagle franchise is Hawaii's only one, though expansion is not out of the question for Garcia and Kekona, Garcia said. MBA Holdings is growing and has stores in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Kanaka Metal Horse specializes in custom chopper motorcycles from American IronHorse and Big Dog, and also offers Harley-Davidson and other makes for rentals, starting at $109 a day.
The custom choppers "are beautiful bikes," but most customers so far have chosen to rent Harleys, Garcia said.
Business so far is mostly local, but there is visitor traffic as well.
Local support for the business began even before the shop was ready to open. "People would come ... and say, 'What do you need?'" Garcia said. "We were totally in awe. It is still remarkable."
Garcia's business background is in auto sales, as a finance manager and in human resources. Kekona was a self-employed landscaper who has been a motorcycle enthusiast "since he was like, 7 or 8," Garcia said. Kekona also is a musician who performed with the Ohana Serenaders and wrote the song "Haleakala."
Pictures of Kekona, Garcia and their extended ohana are displayed on the company Web site, as are photos of logo wear and other apparel sold at the shop.
Lach spent a day with Garcia and Kekona, briefing them on the bike rental business.
"I took 'em to school on how to remain profitable and keep your business running smoothly," he said. "They are nice folks, I hope they do well."
Lach's career path took him through Arizona, where he ran a large motorcycle dealership, so when he arrived in Hawaii, "I knew who to look for," he said.
"I contacted Mr. (Joe) Nicolai's office," seeking to rent Harley-Davidson motorcycles, basically calling for his blessing, Lach said.
Lach saw the motorcycle rental business on Kauai "loosely run by a band of misfits," he laughed. Nicolai counseled Lach that if he were to show up for work every day and run his business right, "one day you'll be the only one" operating a Harley-Davidson business.
"I took his advice and here we are," Lach said.
Nicolai's Pacific Harley-Davidson has new dealerships on Oahu and Maui "and here on Kauai, (he) has afforded us the opportunity to build. We're breaking ground in maybe a month," said Lach.
The new Kauai Harley-Davidson/Buell dealership will be on Kaumualii Highway across from Kauai Community College, where "every car that takes that road will see us," he said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com