Where Caffeine Meets Gasoline

Part Coffee Shop, Part DIY Garage: Behind the Scenes with Atlanta’s Brother Moto


April 6, 2019 Cars By Photo by Brother Moto
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Take a drive through Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood and you’ll see the contrast: mixed-use developments shooting up among historic homes. Brother Moto, situated in a nondescript warehouse that stands in opposition to shiny new buildings on Memorial Drive, takes this duality one step further — it’s part coffee shop, part motorcycle workshop. Confused yet? Think of it as a community clubhouse: a dream garage where people can work on their bikes and have their friends over for a killer cup of coffee.

Brother Moto is the brainchild of Jared Erickson and Bobby Russell, who were brought together by motorcycles and mutual friends. “We both live in the city and have bikes. The bikes always broke down so we ended up working on them together and always wished we had a space to work on them,” Erickson says.

About seven years ago, the pair opened the first Brother Moto location in East Atlanta Village. Not long after, zoning issues forced them to close shop and relocate to their current location in Cabbagetown, where they’ve been cruising since 2017.

“We try not to be too cliquey,” says Erickson, who owns a Royal Infield, a Continental GT and an old Honda CX5000. “There are a lot of vintage bikes in here, but we accept any type. Some of these groups, they don’t get that, or don’t want to. Maybe they’re not open enough, I don’t know.” Brother Moto hosts a weekly ride to Victory Sandwich Bar, a local eatery about two miles away. “It’s been really cool for the community, just getting new riders out, or people curious about bikes,” Erickson says.

Members pay a monthly fee to access the workshop, equipped with specialty tools and a welding area. “It’s nothing too elaborate, but something you’d find in most builder garages,” Erickson says. He grew up working on cars and had a dad who kept a great garage, so when it came time to stock the garage at Brother Moto he thought, “Well, what would I want?” He must have hit the nail on the head, because over 120 riders are members.

Even customers who don’t work on bikes come for the coffee and community vibe. The warehouse’s softened industrial aesthetic doesn’t hurt, either. The flooring is concrete, the ceilings are exposed, the walls are black and white and a neon sign that says “Moto” provides the quintessential hipster beacon for Instagram. Floor-to-ceiling windows connecting to the garage give coffee shop goers the chance to peer in at the bikers at work. It’s cool and edgy, but warm enough that you feel at ease. A shipping container flanks the back of the space, serving as the coffee counter where surprisingly friendly baristas skillfully whip up espresso beverages.

The coffee itself comes from nearby Radio Roasters, which furthers Brother Moto’s sense of community. In the shop, head manager Zach Gordon-Kane applies a bartender’s touch to the espresso beverages. They change seasonally, but a recurring hit is the Chockwork Orange — a latte infused with chocolate and orange syrup, playfully garnished with a Terry’s chocolate orange slice. There’s also the Hometown, a nod to the Atlanta-based giant, blending Coca-Cola and espresso with vanilla. But even for those who don’t like frilly drinks, the espresso classics are smooth and balanced, easy to drink. It would be easy to assume that coffee takes a back seat to the motorcycles, but that’s not the case.

Brother Moto regularly organizes pop-ups in the coffee shop with vendors that include local food makers without brick-and-mortars. It once hosted a pop-up with LA-based tattoo artist Coral Monday, who was visiting Atlanta — not your usual pop-up. “It’s just been kind of fun to bring in a different crowd,” Erickson says. You hear on the street, ‘Oh, Brother Moto motorcycles, I may not be cool enough to go there, I’m kind of scared, I don’t ride a bike.’ So we want to use the pop-ups as a way to bring in different people that can come here to grab a cup of coffee and just hang out.”

Looking forward, Erickson hopes to replicate the Brother Moto concept in other cities. “There’s a motorcycle culture, and different cities will have different aspects of it,” he says. “Maybe it’s not a coffee shop, maybe it’s a bar.” What probably won’t change: cool bikes and good vibes.