For as long as the motorcycle has been around, coffee has been part of the culture and lifestyle associated with two-wheeled machines. Thor Drake realized this and combined the two into one business, See See Motor Coffee Co. The original location in Portland, Oregon, was such a hit that it led to opening a KTM dealership just a few blocks away, as well as a second shop in Reno, Nevada. While business has been highly successful between selling good coffee, motorcycles, and vintage-inspired apparel, it’s hard to fully grasp or appreciate the vast number of things See See and Thor are involved in. That’s why we met up with him at the 2017 Washougal MX to get the full scoop on all of the good times See See has been brewing up.
Tell me a little bit about what See See Motor Coffee Co. is.
Basically, See See started as a little bit of something different than what was available nine years ago. The standard was lots of skulls and art, and we really just liked bikes and riding and felt that it doesn't have to be so hard. We opened doors for other people to enjoy them, and it kind of started with that notion of turning things on its heads a bit and seeing what happens. We built a couple of custom bikes and then things evolved into what it is today, which is a coffee shop where anyone can come and enjoy coffee, a small retail shop, and then down the street our KTM dealership. It's a pretty good dealership, I think we're pretty focused on riding dirt bikes and racing.
We're doing this interview on this Red Bull hospitality area, and right next to us is the See See booth, how did all of this come together?
Red Bull had some last-minute changes that they made to the layout, and we started working with their guy. I said, 'This is what would be cool. If we put the booth in the center of the track, and we sell merch on one side with custom bikes on display. Not just dirt bikes either, you go to a motocross race and maybe you get sick of looking at dirt bikes so we've got a chopper or a flat track bike.' It's sort of that turning things on its head vibe that I was talking about earlier. It's about combining two unlikely things, choppers and motocross.
Earlier you guys had the Hell Raiser 125 down here doing a burnout, that had a pretty big turnout.
That's our mechanic from the KTM dealership, Tony Jeske. He builds custom bikes as well [Jeske MX Customs], he started doing that and we cherry picked him from it. He's been wanting to do that since Seattle Supercross, and I told him, 'Tony you do what you want, I don't care.' His first burnout wasn't quite good enough, so he did another one just to make sure [laughs].
How has the KTM dealership been going so far?
It's been going well. We got the keys about this time last year. The building was completely trashed and we did as much as we could with the small budget we had saved up. I think we did an alright job building up this 100-year-old building. Our goal with it is to do things from start to finish a little bit differently. We didn't really know how to do it 'right' so we just went for it. That's what we do well and we tried to stick to that same train of thought. If you could do it how you wanted to do it, do it that way instead of adhering to a formula. It's probably a successful formula, but we just went out on our own and did it. It comes down to the fact that you really can't replace hard work. You show up, put in your eight to twelve hours a day, and you'll build something big eventually. We do that every day. It's been really good. There are 28 units in the Northwest region and we've got a top five position. I don't know what it is currently, but we're right around there. It's been really good for us. We service an area and a type of person that doesn't want to just go buy a bike and never come back in again. Most of our customers come back in, say hi to us, and check things out. We go to events and ride together. I guess we're a little bit naïve, but people want to join together, kind of like a skate shop.
There seems to be a unique culture like that surrounding motorcycles and dirt bikes up here in the Northwest, whether it's 125's or See See or Dirt Quake. Do you see a lot of that?
I mean I think there's a unique culture in the Northwest in general. It rains for eight months of the year and you sit there thinking about what you would do if it was sunny out, so when it's sunny out you go and do it. It's hard to pinpoint, but I think a lot of people up here appreciate life. I mean where else do you get a track like this? It's a rad forest with perfect dirt and great race fans. Anyone can come up and camp here, you don't need special credentials. I think in general the culture up here is different from the rest of the country. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it must have something to do with a lot of rain!
What's next for See See Motor Coffee Co?
I hope I can get a mobile coffee and motorcycle unit out there soon. Next, I don't know. I want to keep growing, but I want to do it in the right way and not half-ass things. It needs to be in an area that's needed. I really don't know. I opened two businesses in this last year, one in Reno and the dealership in Portland. I think next for me is some dirt biking out in the woods with some guys and fishing out of a canoe. I'm looking to take it easy.