By: Marika Thoms
What is your name? Marika Thoms
Tell us about yourself! I try to live my life for fun.
Where are you from? I grew up on the outskirts of Ottawa Ontario, a rather conservative government city that I never identified with but has an awesome and diverse motorcycle scene.
What is your position at Town Moto? Technically part owner, but to be specific, I run the day to day operations of our bricks and mortar store. How long have motorcycles been a part of your life? Since day 0. My parents own a muti-line motorcycle dealership in Ottawa where they still work very hard, everyday. Growing up I hated being around it because it was like the favorite child in our family, getting the most attention and acting as my baby sitter. I rebelled against it for a long time, never getting involved in the business or racing like my older brother did. Eventually, after moving away and working for other people in retail management I ended up back home to help them out and save money. When my days were filled with 14 hours of work with family, the commute on a motorcycle became a refuge and I started to find the freedom the simple act of riding itself.
What is it about riding that you love so much? There are many aspects to having a motorcycle in my life that I am grateful for. Mostly I recognize the fact that it is not a life necessity and if you are lucky enough to have a motorcycle that works, it means you have time, it means you have financial stability, it means you have a home to park it, that you have taken care of some of life’s more important needs to get to a place where you can think of yourself. It is the utimate gift of gratitude and a way to manufacture happiness everyday.
Is there a type of riding that you have not tried that you are interested in? I have been lucky to try many styles of motorcycles through my job but what interests me most is the places a motorcycle can take you. I care less about the style, more that I can touch the ground and get myself out of trouble without asking for help. I am interested in the places so foreign that they don’t show up on my instagram feed. We have many friends who travel to these places and for me it is about building a lifestyle that allows me to make once in a lifetime trips a regular occurance.
Tell us what kind of bike or bikes you have in the garage currently. I have a 2012 Triumph Bonneville and a Kawasaki KLX 140 What are your goals as a motorcyclist? To ride more.
How did Town Moto start? Where did the idea come from? The idea came while I was working for my parents. They run a very traditional style dealership with parts, sales, service and accessories. These dealerships often have to focus on the big things and I found that even in a space I managed it was hard to give Independent brands or small items space to be noticed. I felt like there were so many places to spend +$10,000 in and nowhere to spend $10. It was frustrating that dealerships didn’t seem to care about these details. I saw the need for a space that made the connection between enthusiast and experienced rider and valued both. I saw the need for a space that didn’t judge its customers on gender, or age or financial appearances. A space that highlighted the brands that got lost in the huge catalogues or poorly merchadised shelves, and overall I wanted to create a space where the people who curated the product selection actually rode. At this time there were no small shops with these ideals. There was no model to follow.
Who are the founders/team members? I started the store with Andrew McCracken. We are longtime friends, I trust him and we have opposite skill sets. He is graphic designer and is responsible for all of our in house designs. He also manages our webstore. We have different opinions about many things in motorcycling which is great for our product selection and I never second guess his work.
What made you want to start Town Moto in Toronto specifically? The lack of inclusivity and creativity in the traditional dealership model. What would you say is Town Moto all about (if you had to sum it up)? Town Moto is a retail store that provides a human and inclusive experience in what can sometimes be an intimidating and overwhelming scene of motorcycle products. We strive to foster and build a community around our city, motorcycling and good people in general.
What do you look for when you bring a brand in to your store? We try to work with brands we respect. To support like-minded individuals who are moving the industry forward and who care. We stock products we use ourselves and try not to compromise on trends.
What is the hardest thing about starting and running a business? The boring, but very real answer related to the motorcycle world is that is hard to make enough money to survive as a bricks & mortar store with how competitive the market has become. I used to like competition because it used to be that whoever worked the hardest was the most successful, but now you can just go online steal someone elses brand identity, thier photo, and drop ship from someone else’s inventory and make a sale without ever employing a human or interacting with the customer. I have faith that I am not the only one who will pay more to support a business in my neighborhood to guarantee that expert will be there when I need them, but it can be disheartening being the internet’s change room.
What is the most rewarding part of starting a running a business? Everytime I go away I get excited to get back to work. It is rewarding to be able to choose who you work with and how you spend your time. To not answer to someone else’s ideals. To not dread the start of a week. To create something that allows you to live life as you choose it.
What is your take on the current state of the motorcycle industry as a whole? Any key shifts standing out to you? Anything you are super excited or not excited about? I have so much to say about the state of the motorcycle industry it is hard to pick just one thing. I think we are in an era where shifts are quicker to hit and trends quicker to change. The internet is a place of smoke and mirrors where it is becoming harder to know who is real and what information to trust. Motorcycle brands are desperate to sell units but keep trying to push styles modern customers don’t want to buy. The industry seems to forget that all of us started off as non-motorcycle riders and that we are missing the mark by only paying attention to people who already know how to ride. It can feel like an impossible battle to win at times, so instead I choose to concentrate on those who are going against the trends, creating their own world of motorcycling on their terms, and remind myself what it felt like to be ignored as woman in motorcycle dealership with cash in hand and why I wanted to do this in the first place.