The United States of America will soon be home to as many as ten – yes, ten – new outlets of the legendary Ace Café of London. Crass commercialization of an icon? Is it simply an indicator of the spreading cafe culture? Maybe they’re simply riding the café racer craze which has spawned countless TV and bike shows everywhere? Whatever it is, Ace Café London’s expansion is something which many of us interested in the history of motorcycles and the people who ride them will want to be part of in some way.
What’s the real reason behind the Ace Café USA?
Perhaps Ace Café London has decided to take advantage of not just the popularity of the café racer motorbike, but also the cultural current which underlies it – basic, no-frills, and usually cheap transportation. The idea of the café bike is to be fast but not showy – the complete opposite of the chromed, raked-out repli-chopper of the last decade or so. Since the Great Recession wiped out much of the wealth of the middle and lower income earners in the U.S., many have turned to a more simplified aesthetic as it fits how many wish to see themselves in this day and age.
It was all humble beginnings for the Ace Café, which was built to service motorists driving on a then new major London traffic artery, in the pre-war years when it started as a small diner on the outskirts of the city. Motorcyclists were attracted to the 24-hour operating schedule, since they prowled the night when there were fewer people out and the coppers focused on other priorities. After World War II, Ace Café’s popularity came out into the light of day and grew even larger once rebuilt from wartime damage. It was only to last until 1969, though.
Owner of the Ace Café London since 1993, Mark Wilsmore, reopened the café in 1997, bringing it back to life after being shuttered for nearly 30 years. Wilsmore made serious and extensive renovations to the property in 2001, right in time to catch a wave of hipsters looking for something authentic in a time of virtual everything. Now it is a destination for riders of all sorts of motorcycle and a site to which some pilgrimage.
Will Ace Café USA destroy its integrity or identity?
If the Ace Café London does open Ace Café America or Tampa or wherever, you can be sure it will become the favorite domain of every tattooed Betty-Page-Cult burlesque dancer between 18 and 55, and every James Dean wannabe twenty-something with a job in banking and finance. Therein lies the difficulty of ‘franchising’ the historic; it often comes off as in-authentic and joins the poseur realm.
The flip side of the Ace Café USA is a further proliferation of motorcycle lifestyle into the larger world and culture of the United States. This may be the beginning of a more socially acceptable view of motorcycle riders – the opposite side of Sons of Anarchy, but with the same courage and integrity.
Any success will be based on how well Mr. Wilsmore can pilot the Ace Café through its introduction into the U.S., and based on his past you should definitely consider betting on the charismatic former cop from London. What a fine thing it would be to have the Ace Café as a meeting place for a long day’s ride into the nether regions of your state…as long as they have good coffee and tasty food!
Plans are afoot right now, so stay tuned to the Ace Café website for updates: http://www.ace-cafe-london.com
Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com