Harley-Davidson Motorcyles, a brand often associated with tough leatherclad bikers, is revving into the future by getting into the latte business.
The company, founded more than a century ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is opening its first shop in downtown Toronto — selling coffee.
The head of Harley-Davidson Canada says the idea of running a motorcycle-themed cafe was a natural one because coffee and motorcycles have a history dating back to the 1960s when manufacturers made lightweight two-wheelers called cafe racers.
"These were stripped-down, raw city bikes that allowed people to go from cafe to cafe and enjoy the city riding experience," said Anoop Prakash. "Coffee and motorcycles go hand in hand."
The coffee shop, which opens Friday for the summer riding season until it closes in September, is located in a trendy west-end Toronto neighbourhood and its neighbours include a brewery, a tattoo shop and some of the city's hottest restaurants.
Prakash said being in a hip area in the downtown core will help the brand appeal to the millennial rider, and was a major factor when the company was scouting for possible locations for its first coffee shop in Canada.
The company is known for its massive showroom dealerships in the suburbs, which has long helped them cater to the more experienced Baby Boomer rider.
But as the company tries to expand its customer base, it has switched gears to offer more options to everyone from the diehard rider in their 50s and 60s to the budding hobbyists in their 20s and 30s.
That's resulted in new bike designs that are priced starting at $8,000. Five years ago, the most affordable Harley model began at $12,000.
Female riders have also been a focus for the company, said Prakash, describing women as their fastest growing customer base.
"Every generation makes it their own. We're customer-led in everything we do and lifestyle, changes and adapts, with every generation of rider," he said.
"What is universal to Harley-Davidson is this sense of motorcycling as a path to achieve your personal freedom and adventure. That's universal and no matter what generation you're in."
Cafe patrons will be able to admire Harleys and other motorcycle club paraphernalia on display as they sit on black leather couches sipping a cappuccino. The shop menu features everything from cold brew coffee to cookies and scones.
The space will also have a stationary Harley-Davidson meant to entice curious customers to jump aboard to stimulate the feel of riding a hog.
Prakash said the cafe will also hold regular events from social meetups to workshops, such as tutorials on how to outfit a Harley with a new exhaust pipe.