SMITH + BUTLER brings bikes to Brooklyn boutique

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Photos: Grant Ray

“Think of Brando riding his Triumph Thunderbird down to the waterfront in a Longshoreman Cap and Yukon Wool Cape Coat,” says SMITH + BUTLER, describing the approach it’s taken to its new boutique in Brooklyn. The store, which opened on Monday, carries rugged, fashionable workwear for men and women, bike-influenced tchotskies and yes, vintage motorcycles.
SMITH + BUTLER, which is joining Tauk in Marylynn Piotrowski’s
portfolio, describes its inspirations as  “45rpm records, oiled canvas,
military boots, apothecary items, the books of Hubert Selby Jr., race
flags, Danny Lyon’s biker photographs, the color red, Steve McQueen
riding his Triumph, eclectic dive bars and 1940s Indian Motorcycles.”
It’s great to see a store recognizing that motorcycles are about more
than leather jackets and novelty thong underwear. The brands that S+B
carries — A.P.C., Barbour, Belstaff, Dunderdon, Filson, Glory and
Pendleton to name a few –are refreshingly practical, stylish and affordable, as is
the store itself. The few motorcycles on display are either owned by
the store’s co-founder or a selection plucked from classifieds and now
being sold on commission.

The only thing missing from S+B is functional riding gear. None of the
jackets on display incorporates any kind of weather or impact
protection, none of the helmets are modern; indeed there’s nothing the
safety- or comfort-minded biker would want to wear. We’d love to see the
store add a selection of jackets from Lost Worlds, gloves from Spidi,
leathers from RS Taichi, helmets from Arai and armor from Dainese to
its collection or maybe work with a designer to develop a new range
that recaptures the stylish functionality of the now defunct Nick
brand. In short, products that we could wear on- as well as

Going further, we also hope that the store will develop a curated
selection of machinery that extends beyond Craigslist’s low-hanging
fruits and into hard-to-find classics and customs of the kind not
currently available anywhere in the country, much less Brooklyn. A Deus
W650 bobber
, for instance, would be a good, reasonably priced start.
This eclectic taste is already reflected in the store’s decorations,
which feature black and white photos of contemporary motocross
competition alongside vintage furniture and old bike gear.

S+B’s plans extend beyond the mere retail. The shop doubles as a case
study for the company’s interior design wing, which will open upstairs
in the near future.

SMITH + BUTLER is located at 225 Smith Street, at Butler Street, in
Carroll Gardens; conveniently close to my new house. That’s good,
because I plan on shopping there.


  • Ben Part

    Nick Ashley is refurbishing his old Ledbury Rd, London shop, that has been rented out to non-biking customers for a few years.
    I can’t wait, My N.A. Trailmaster – ‘functional, comfortable, modern (Gortex & fleece, instead of smelly & dirty greased cotton)’ has been worn into the ground & I want the same again.


    I think a boutique store like this is fantastic, and further agree that the “old school” style needs to be seperated from the real men who left safety at home (whether by choice or lack there of…..). Something to consider in Triumph’s new line up for 2009 is the Lawford jacket. Great 40′s looks, nice leather, low price and good armour to boot. I think it’s a winner for the retro aimed rider who wants more than jsut soft leather for protection….

  • thomashenny

    Wasn’t Butler & Smith who brought BMWs to the U.S.? So why is there a Bonneville in there instead of a /2?

    • Grant

      That’s pure happenstance, Thomas, but nice catch. The boutique is named after its location, which is directly on the corner of Smith Street and Butler Street. Plus it’s in Brooklyn, not the upper west side on 83rd Street of Manhattan. Also, they aren’t inclined to selling just Triumphs. Behind that wall of photographs there’s an early Suzuki T500 and a military bike with a marque I’m not familiar with.

  • dimitri

    Real men are build for speed and not for comfort.

    You can get the Dainese, Spidi whatever modern stuff on every street corner. I think it’s a very wise decision not to cater for everybodies needs.
    It makes them stand out of the crowd and definetly not a run of the mill shop.

    I would love to see these kinds of initiatives overhere in Europe. I would love to do something like that myself actually.

    I wish them the best of luck. I like it.

  • cary

    I’ll be shocked and just a little bit dismayed if they actually get close to their $3400 for an old ‘Zuki twin.

    These are great bikes, no doubt, but only at around 700 dollars.

    If they manage so separate some image pimp from 3 g’s with this, more power to them.

    • Grant

      All bikes are sold through consignment, Cary. In that area, housewives can walk in and buy that bike for their husbands on a whim. Crazy but true.

      Plus, I haven’t seen clean early ’70s two-strokes in the US for under $1000 in years. Care to tell where you’re seeing these deals?

      • cary

        believe me…. I know that ‘hood – I moved to manhattan from a trendy part of brooklyn because it was cheaper!

        I seem to remember my H1 Kaw being around $500 (in the early 00′s), needing just a carb clean and new tires – then again, this is a city where a sweater at barney’s can cost more than that bike did!

      • Erika

        “In that area, housewives can walk in and buy that bike for their husbands on a whim. Crazy but true.”

        That comment sums it up right there.


  • noneofyourbiz


    • Jay

      Dear Nonofyourbiz / “Poser” comment,
      fist off – be a man and leave your real name. Your comment falls on deaf ears when you post a name that says “i’m too afraid to leave my real name because i only spew negative comments”.
      secondly – i want to make this clear to everyone: i love bikes. i have been riding since i was 17. Im 36 now. I dont claim to know how to rebuild an engine – or pretend to know more than i do. i leave that up to the skilled mechanics in my life. I do know gear and i do know what i LIKE and what many others like. so tell me – why not offer this service to the masses? i cant please everyone – and in the specific biker community its tough as everyone has some opinion. why not be different and be supportive and positive – it will only help you in the long run. i can only please the few who choose to buy this type of gear. i will do my best to listen to your comments, suggestions and then execute accordingly as i do want to keep the local motor bike community satisfied. just ride and be happy to be on two wheels – and i hope you ride 365 days a year in this biker friendly city of ours (NYC) like i do – because if you don’t – then you, my friend would be the poser. we don’t pretend to be anything else and we are here to help. thanks. Jay from smith+butler

  • Karl

    Well well. Has this store set off a flurry of comments on the NYCVINMOTO mailing list or what? Anybody ride on Monday morning? 12 degrees up here in the northern ‘burbs and I did, though I guess electrics are cheating in the vintage crowd.

    Hey what’s wrong with Craiglist’s bottom hanging fruit anyway. What are you, an elitist with only white people made motorcycles sufficient? Ask yourself, am I a racist or a ricist?


    I don’t know. The store sounds great but this “Jay” guy seems like a trouble maker. A real bad apple. I’d like to meet him on the streets and set him straight.

  • jim degraw

    jay is a cool guy who is really into building up a vintage motorcycle scene in brooklyn. the store is not pretentious nor is it for everyone. i have spoken with jay and he is really into motorcycles and he is also a really nice and honest businessman. if you dont like what this store stands for than just dont shop there, you’re probably a douchebag anyway.

    jay, good luck this summer! i know business will be awesome for you and your crew and you’ll get a lot of happy new customers.

  • Paul Mauk

    I am interested in a “Deus W650 Tracker” Their website list your store as the American Rep. I am located in New Canaan, CT. so I am close enough to Brooklyn, that it would be no problem to come in if you have one on premise. Any information that you can share about the bike would be appreciated. My Phone is 203-966-2222
    Thanks for your time Paul