Lowbrow Customs is no stranger in today's chopper scene. Company founder Tyler Malinky and his brother Kyle are active members in the ChopCult community, and the whole Malinky clan logs thousands of miles every year hawking their wares at swap meets, trade shows and motorcycle events around the country.
Given Lowbrow's rapid ascent from t-shirt retailer to full-service parts maker and wholesaler for the garage builder and motorcycle retailer, we figured it was time to see just what makes this family-owned and operated company tick.
There's nothing sexy about packing boxes or driving cross-country to stand in a wet field for one more biker hoedown, but this is the kind of heavy lifting and behind-the-scenes BS that fuels the American Dream. Few people embrace the drudgery of self-employment with more zeal than Tyler and Kyle do, and that's what makes these brothers and their company so unique.
What is Lowbrow, and what is your primary mission?
Lowbrow Customs supplies shops and customers with quality parts, apparel and media, both produced by us as well as from talented builders and shops around the world. Our goal is to bring some real life to a business, make it something more than just, "Give us your money, here's your parts." We do it to have fun, because it is what we like to do, and because if I was stuck in a job I hated I would be a horrible, ornery person
What's the brief history, how did it start and how has it evolved?
I bought the domain name lowbrowcustoms.com and designed the logo for no reason. A year later my wife (then girlfriend) said, 'Hey, you should start making some Triumph stickers and selling them through that website'. She thought the name and logo was cool, and I hadn't done anything at all with it. Something like that, anyway, she takes full credit for Lowbrow
Any new, special or ongoing motorcycle projects at Lowbrow you'd care to mention?
We partnered with Wes White at Four Aces Cycle to put out the Triumph 650 Rebuild DVD and English 101, and are currently filming another tech DVD as well as a documentary that we are excited about. Wes and I are also collaborating on the Salt Ghost LSR bike, which is really gonna be cool when our plans come together
What do you think will look different at Lowbrow in 2015?
Flying motorcycles and moving sidewalks. 2015 is the future. Hopefully, Wes and I will have put out a bunch more cool vintage motorcycle tech and documentary DVDs
Who does what?
I do the design work and web design, new product ideas and such, as well as advertising and media stuff. Kyle runs the shop, keeps everything running smooth and makes me feel guilty for working on my bike while he's packaging orders. He does a great job at both. George helps out with packing orders and anything Kyle needs a hand with; George is a good dude who has been chopping bikes since before I was born, which is crazy
What's at typical day at Lowbrow like for a guy in your shoes?
Coffee, work on bike, computer, coffee, computer, go in the house and think about work
Coffee, Red Bull, crank? How do you do it?
How does your work space break down or compartmentalize for tasks and productivity?
Years ago I used to run a sign-making company, and that machinery was where my current office is today. Now my office is a photo studio, a graphic-arts center, and a place where I can talk on the phone and other work of that nature. We have a separate small bay for personal bike work and fabrication, and then there are two bays: one for main inventory and packaging, and another for bulk inventory. We also have a final bay full of personal bikes and misc crap
Do you build bikes for customers, or do tune and service work?
No tune and service or builds; just our own. We are always working on at least one project per man, and usually multiple bikes
You work with your brother all day. Do you guys ever get pissed and fight or wrestle? Kyle's got some guns, can you take him?
I win, because if Kyle does, he gets fired. Seriously, we are like normal brothers, we might bitch at each other or throw a bucket of concrete at each other, but after we scream "pussy, fuck you" or something equally dumb it's all good again
Since you basically run Lowbrow out of the garage in your back yard, what do the neighbors think?
Our shop is more than double the size of our house, but I think it surpassed "garage status" about an additional thousand square feet ago! The backyard barn has had multiple additions over the years, and when I bought the space we gutted it and re-wired and finished the entire building. I have an apple orchard on one side of the shop, and the neighbors on the other side live so far back in the woods you can't see their house. We are pretty isolated, so no one has any issues with us that I know of. When we throw parties at the shop we invite all the neighbors, but so far only one neighbor has showed up. That guy wasn't a fan of Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival, so he left early!
What's one thing you don't sell at Lowbrow that you wish you did?
I don't know but hopefully I will come across it and get it in stock
Are there any hard and fast rules in the work day? No beer before noon, a speech when answering the phone, Kyle has to wear a uniform, stuff like that
No, the basic thing is take care of your responsibilities, I don't like to micro-manage and I work best when I'm left alone. I know I can trust anything Kyle does
What do you think of the current state of garage-built motorcycles?
In general I think it is great. Lots of people getting interested in building a bike or customizing their own. One thing I have to say: don't worry what the Internet-savvy motorcycle nerds think about your bike; just get out there and do it
What's your favorite part of being self-employed?
Can you share any words of wisdom with entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Beware working just to keep busy. Focus on results, not quantity of work. Do what's right
What inspires and influences you outside of motorcycles and family?
I am inspired and interested by about anything out there. I want to travel everywhere and spend time doing everything I can. I think there are so many interesting things in the world, it is a pity because I feel like I won't have enough time to learn everything I want to before I die
Anything you'd like to add, people you'd like to thank?
Thanks to our customers for continued support, we couldn't do it without you