In the fall of 1969 my friend Chris and I decided to open a retail store selling "Chopper parts". We had built and sold 4 custom bikes that year www.flickr.com/photos/45519093@N00/124039311/in/set-1385107 and all our friends were asking how to buy the parts mail order. Ed Roth published "Choppers" magazine which contained ads including one for AEE Choppers of southern California. We had purchased parts from them for my first panhead chopper that same year. Deciding on the name " CJ custom cycle parts" we made a business plan and went to the bank for a start up loan. To say the bankers laughed at us would be exaggeration but they declined our request. I complained of their shortsightedness to my co-workers at the newspaper and Fran Walling, a fellow artist in the display advertising department, offered to loan me the money from part of her husbands life insurance settlement. We agreed to pay her 1% more than bank rate on a two year repayment plan. And so with $5,000 in the bank we rented a small store front and made plans for a January 1970 opening.
The plan was for Chris to man the retail store on the weekdays while I worked full time at the newspaper, then on Saturdays I would be behind the counter. We really had no clue how the profit margin of a retail parts business should have worked, both of us had only high school educations and in 1969 I was 23, married with an infant daughter and Chris was 19 and two years out of school. To say we were more lucky than smart is an understatement. Further complicating our business plan was the fact that AEE Choppers was both underfunded and had no desire or incentive to sell on the traditional manufacturer/distributor/retailer automotive model. Read the true and remarkable story of Tom and Rose McMullen's business here: www.streetchopperweb.com/features/0910_stcp_street_choppe... Nevertheless, we travelled to socal in a borrowed truck and purchased parts from AEE and several other manufacturers who had placed ads in Ed Roth's magazine. Keep in mind there were no other magazines publishing in 1969, Street Chopper appeared in March 1970 and Easyriders first issue came out in 1971. We opened our chopper shop for business January 10,1970. Harley-Davidson dealers were not interested in modifying motorcycles or the people who were, if you couldn't make your own parts you rode a stock bike.
Chris had learned to lace and true wheels as part of his training at the HD dealership in his two years working there after graduating high school. He was the first in our area to make spokes to adapt a 16 inch HD rim to a Triumph rear hub and had a small business in his garage building wheels for our mutual friends. I had started painting bikes in my garage in 1968. Combining our two skill sets we expected to gain the benefit of making a profit on the parts our fellow riders and friends needed to customize their motorcycles. We soon learned there was not enough profit selling AEE parts so we searched for other sources. Fortunately for us there were plenty of people eager to accommodate us and in the end AEE went out of business in 1975.
This photograph of Julie, our theme girl, wearing our logo t-shirt was taken on January 10,1974 by John Reddick. Exactly four years to the day after we had opened our first store and at the height of our business success. Scanned from a 35 year old 35mm negative.