Greater Vancouver designer Jeff Chung loves motorcycles. He loves owning them, riding them, working on them and even drawing them. But with a few motorcycles in his condo garage, he recently found himself in a tricky situation. He discovered that strata bylaws wouldn’t allow him to work on his bikes on the property. Even the most simple fixes – lubing chains or changing oil – were forbidden.
Chung is not a mechanic, but motorcycles are his hobby and his passion. “I like to work on my own bikes,” he said. “For major services, I take it to a shop. But for simple stuff — maintenance stuff — I like to do it myself, but unfortunately I couldn’t (do that at home).” Now, his days of not being able to work on his bikes are over. Three months ago, Chung opened Rocket Fuel Supply Co., Vancouver’s newest do-it-yourself motorcycle shop.
Mixing work with pleasure
Originally from South Korea, Chung came to Vancouver when he was 14 years old. After high school, he went to Art Center College of Design in the U.S. to study car design, but because of his passion for vehicles of the two-wheeled variety, he decided to focus his studies on motorcycle design. Just as he was graduating, Walt Disney Co. was starting work on the movie “TRON: Legacy,” and by coincidence, Chung’s final project in college was about human and motorcycle integration.
“My final project kind of piqued (Disney’s) interest during my interview, and they scouted me to start working on a TRON project as a contractor. And shortly after, I found myself working full-time at ‘Global Creatives’ team at Disney corporation as an artist, working alongside amazing artists who later became good mentors to me,” said Chung.
Earlier this year, still doing consulting work for Disney, Pixar Animation Studios, Yamaha, and other major companies, Chung started looking for a new place to run his growing business. “I was looking everywhere and a tiny place anywhere costs $2,000 or $3,000 (a month),” he said.
That’s when he stumbled upon a big warehouse in Burnaby with a more affordable rent. Chung decided to embrace the space, thinking it could fulfill two of his needs; the warehouse would provide ample space for Chung and his studio equipment to work more efficiently, and it would also be the perfect place to fuel his passion – tinkering with his bikes.
With the goal of bringing Vancouver’s motorcycle community together, Chung worked hard to create an approachable and inviting ambience for the first DIY bike shop that Vancouver has seen in a long time. The last DIY shop to open in the city, Motomethod, opened in East Vancouver in 2012 but about two years later, it closed its doors.
“This place came to be because I needed a place to work on my bikes, and I also wanted to provide a place where people can come in and work on their bikes, chill, drink a cold-brew coffee and hang out with people who have the same passions,” said Chung. Rocket Fuel Supply doesn’t provide mechanical advice or services. The shop simply provides the space and the tools for motorcycle enthusiasts to work on their bikes in a relaxed and professional environment.
Hansol Kim, one of Rocket Fuel Supply’s first clients, said that he has been coming to the shop since it opened in June. “Everything in my Harley, except major stuff, I did myself here at the shop,” he said. Kim finished his bike projects but continues to go back to the shop just to hang out. Chung said that’s exactly what he had in mind when he opened Rocket Fuel Supply. “I want people to know this place exists, so they can come in without the pressure of (buying) something,” he said. “It would be great if you buy something from me, but you don’t have to. Just come in, chill, relax.”
Rocket Fuel Supply sells DIY shop privileges and motorcycle products and gear. But in addition to all that, the shop also offers a coffee bar serving house-brand hot coffee and nitrogen-infused cold-brew coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Members can also gain access to an Apple TV, Playstation console and other entertainment features.
Rocket Fuel Supply offers two types of monthly memberships, as well as single “drop-in” visits. The basic membership plan costs $45 a month and customers can come into the shop from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. The most premium plan costs $150 per month and members can leave their bikes at the shop for up to a week at a time. In addition, those who opt for the top plan also get 10 percent off everything from the store and free coffee. For a drop-in visit, the client pays $25 to use everything that the shop provides, except the lift, during the working hours.