Editor's note: This story originally published in the Nov. 12, 2022, edition of The Columbus Telegram. To read the story in full, visit columbustelegram.com.
Starting a new business from scratch is scary, according to 402 Custom Cycles and Powdercoating owner Lance Mitchell. Despite that, he and his wife TracyLynn decided they would take a crack at it.
"The whole working for yourself thing was really scary at first," Lance said.
"Taking that jump was very scary but everyone says go in with both feet and we had a lot of encouragement from a lot of friends who just said go for it," Tracy Lynn said. "They’ve been our backbone and pats on the back."
“And really good customers," Lance said.
Lance, a lifelong biker, said the love of the machines and riding is a family tradition, and something he even worked at in high school.
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"I have rode since I was 3. My dad rode, my dad worked at a Harley dealer, the motorcycle thing is kind of a generational thing," Lance said. "I was a certified Harley tech basically the day I got out of high school."
The shop, located at 2319 11th St., is the product of Lance's years of experience with riding, tinkering with, repairing and customizing motorcycles. After he had worked for Harley-Davidson for some time, Lance started working with cars, but felt drawn back to his roots.
"I did that for a few years, and changed course because I thought racecars were cooler," Lance said. "I worked at a Harley (Davidson) shop and kind of got the itch back. With them closing the idea came up that 'hey, there's a missed market here in town for service work.'"
After they opened the shop, TracyLynn kept working at UPS for a while, coming in after her shift to help Lance run the shop. Eventually, they were both able to work at the shop.
"Soon as I was done, I came in here and helped him into the wee hours of the morning, go home, go to bed, wake up the next morning, turn around and go to my own job," TracyLynn said.
As a way to ensure steady business in the winter, they added powder coating services, something they both learned from a friend and a series of trial and error over time. They do get custom work during winter as well, Lance added, which is the best part of the season for him.
"The winter projects are probably what I like to do the best. It's when we do our big motor builds for customers, big stereos, a bunch of the custom work," Lance said.
Powder coating, a process involving near-microscopic particles of a type of plastic polymer, electrically charged to stick to metal and baked in place. The result is a hard shell of color similar to paint, but less susceptible to damage. Lance and TracyLynn have powder coated many things from tractor, car and motorcycle parts to decorations and handrails.
"I've done some pretty different stuff, not like the stuff on our bikes or others. I've done a pink flamingo, a Bigfoot, we get some quirky stuff here but it's fun to do," TracyLynn said. "We like to do something different than the aftermarket tractor parts we do a lot of times too."
The pair run the shop themselves and are focused on doing what they love: working with motorcycles. After opening the shop around a year and a half ago, on Nov. 8, they welcomed the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, moving them into a new chapter in their home-grown business, doing what they love.
"The working on motorcycles thing is what I thought I wanted to do for a living straight out of high school, and I went a different direction, but now we're back to what I enjoy doing," Lance said.