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The first and only rule of Skidmark Garage: don’t be a douchebag.
Those are the official rules. Beyond that, anyone and everyone is welcome at this community motorcycle garage.
Birthed from a broken-down VW van in Los Angeles that led to a great idea, Skidmark Garage is just one of the stories told from inside the Hamilton Collaborative, a creative community managed cooperatively.
Owner Brian Schaffran found himself in that very situation 20 years ago while living in LA: an empty bank account, an on-the-fritz vehicle and no auto mechanical experience whatsoever. So, naturally, he did what any born-and-bred Clevelander would do — he figured it out for himself and others.
His idea: a community garage where people could share tools, lifts and other means to help each other fix their own vehicles.
Fast-forward two decades and a trip across the country, and you’ll find yourself in a sea of stories-high industrial buildings within Cleveland’s St. Clair Superior neighborhood. Skidmark Garage is tucked inside the Hamilton Building flanked by artists, creators and makers.
Looking for the decorative vestibule leading to the entrance of Skidmark Garage? Turn around and go home, then.
A white garage door on the north side of the Hamilton Building is your landmark. Lift it. Sandblasters. Motor oil. Exhaust. Beer. Grit.
You might be greeted by Grendel a friendly, old brindle dog stepping gingerly around grimy rims, bottles of Windex and a ‘70s-era Kawasaki.
More than likely, though, it’ll be one of Skidmark’s dozens of members: accountants, builders, ex-cons, educators, musicians, fathers, daughters.
That’s the thing about Skidmark — labels aren’t a thing. Know this: come as you are. Everyone’s cool.
They call it a community for a reason.
Skidmark Garage isn’t designed for just leather-clad Harley owners, retirees looking for hobbies or crotch-rocket club members. It’s not just for men or anyone of any particular race or orientation.
It’s for everyone — even people who’ve never ridden, fixed or owned a bike in their entire life.
No one fixes anyone else’s bike. But no one fixes their bike alone.
Members of Skidmark are allowed to leave their motorcycles there, then come and go as they please. And the welders, tire changers, sandblasters and tools are the property of the garage.
Shop class is dead.
Thankfully, that’s not the case at Skidmark Garage. Brian hosts a number of Cleveland high school classes every week during the school year — sometimes inside the shop and sometimes in his mobile shop. It’s a way of giving back.
Skidmark teaches these students how to take apart the bikes, use tools and work on the mechanics. They’re working with their hands, which as Brian notes, isn’t something kids get to do a lot these days beyond cell phones and computers. And, they’re liking it.
Did you spot a few corporate types around the place? It’s cool; this is a safe space.
Skidmark hosts companies seeking team-building activities. Brian coaches them through a bike build. Not an easy task for those of us trapped in excel spreadsheets all day.
The beer is free. The water is a buck.
At least that’s the decree at the bar for members, which is tucked into the guts of the space. It’s usually humming with locals chewing the fat.
In the back is also where you’ll find a few worn-in couches, a pool table and some mismatched dining room sets. If you’re lucky, Brian booked entertainment that night — usually a local band or maybe a comedian. Anything goes. Plan ahead.
Skidmark is doing great things. Get there. Get your hands dirty. Have a beer. Learn more here.
Ohio's only community motorcycle garage has a 2,000 sq. ft. lounge, a bar, a sound system and a DIY culture that inspires all who enter.