Five Floors of History
Without visiting the place and seeing it with your own eyes, there is no way to accurately explain Cycle Warehouse in Butler, Pennsylvania. No matter how over-the-top I make it sound, you will still be blown away by the sea of parts and history throughout the five floors of the 85,000 square foot building. Whatever part you need is probably there somewhere.
We met up with owner Chris Gatto, who was kind enough to show us around while briefly talking about how Cycle Warehouse came to be. Chris worked in a bicycle shop when he was around fourteen years old doing repairs, then got into motorcycles when the industry went absolutely crazy in the early 90s. He explained, “I bought my first panhead for $1,650, and it came with extra wheels, seats, and even a sidecar.” Over time he ended up with more and more. One knucklehead he purchased even came with a Hummer SUV. “I didn’t know what to do with all of this stuff, so I started hanging the parts around the shop. There were gas tanks in windows—just pieces everywhere. People started coming up and asking for parts, so I opened it up as a business.”
Chris was going all over the country to find motorcycles—Florida, Missouri, Washington, police auctions, government auctions, and so on. On top of that, he would even buy out the inventory of other shops that were closing or purchase trade-in or wrecked bikes from dealers. “We started to fill the building up, and I just got carried away. I’ve been out of room for years. I bought another building across the street and gutted it because I wanted to make it a showroom. The city was giving me trouble, so I just started filling it with more bikes and parts.”
While we were there, people were dropping off truckloads of items. “I have people that need to get rid of things, so I make them an offer. They often come here and unload it. It happens all the time. I’ve been dealing with some of the same customers for over thirty years,” he said. “Sometimes I end up with bikes that need more work than expected, so I’ll just tear them apart and piece it out. I try to have an outlet for each avenue of it.”
The most impressive part to me was that while there’s an endless, overwhelming amount of parts, Chris and the crew do a great job of keeping everything organized. That comes in handy now that the majority of the sales are online.
With inventory growing daily, it takes dedication and knowledge to run something this complex. A joke was made while Alexa and I explored all five levels that they should offer tours. Although not all floors are accessible to the public, it’s actually a great idea considering there are so many incredible motorcycles that it could be its own vintage museum. On top of all of the classic Harley-Davidson models, we saw some very rare bikes and custom pieces, including an original Ed Roth sissy bar and a black 1976 Suzuki RE5 Rotary, one of only three-hundred made. This might seem like a crazy operation, but as Chris explains, “I’ve had a lot of friends who were in the motorcycle business leave and get other jobs making more money, but they weren’t happy. You need to do what you love.” If you love motorcycles, you will most definitely want to make the trip to Cycle Warehouse and see it for yourself.