Caffeine & Gasoline: Portland’s See See Motor Coffee Co.

In Portland’s Kerns neighborhood, an unassuming storefront hides a place where caffeine, motor oil, and original art mix. From the wizard-painted espresso machine (which brews Stumptown Coffee) to the custom motorcycles being built in the back, See See Motor Coffee Co. is a shop that could only exist in PDX.

The high-flying company also is the force behind an aesthetically driven bike exhibit, The One Motorcycle Show, which has begun a tradition of showcasing unique and custom bikes and gear. We talked to founder and owner Thor Drake about his dual worlds of bikes and beans.

Why coffee and motorbikes?

They’re the two best things, plus coffee helps you ride faster. Actually, we wanted to create a space that was inviting and unintimidating—a little bit like a multi-functioning community space that is motorcycle-centric.

I grew up a skate rat in skate shops; the feeling was always to support the people who support you. We wanted to make a place that had the same feeling. Being that motorcycling is a little seasonal in Portland, we had to add another aspect that would keep busy in the deep, dark winters. Coffee and motorcycles make it happen.

See See Motor Coffee

Which one kicks your ass harder?

That question has many answers. The quick one is being original and authentic. I never like to miss a good motorcycle race because I have to be a good business owner. Conversely, I never want to be a bad business owner. The fight between coffee tycoon and hillbilly Viking has a good kick, I’d say. 

See See Motor Coffee

What inspires you about motorcycle culture, aesthetics, and art?

I’m like one of those creative retards—everything is inspiring to me. I think also it’s what I’m really into. I love motorcycles. If I was into trumpets, I’d probably do it the same way. I do like the basic function of a motorcycle; it sets you free.

What’s unique to a See See custom bike?

That’s a tough question. I think we try to give the bike a reason. I also love subtlety. I think that most importantly, we just try to do things our own way. I’m not much into preconceived notions. Hopefully, people think our bikes look fun to ride.