For local motorcycle and lifestyle shop owner Bronson Bigelow, riding a bike is like poetry in motion – so much so that he named his New Orleans boutique and brand “Poet Motors.” Inspired by a quote from songwriter Lucinda Williams, Bigelow and his family packed up their belongings and moved, leaving behind his successful career as a corporate attorney in New York City for a lifestyle that more aptly fits a bohemian aesthetic. Bigelow developed the Poet Motors brand himself, with a specialized store that provides accessories and products to support and enhance those that have a passion for motorcycles and the open road.
Originally from upstate New York, Bigelow attended Boston College and law school at Georgetown University before moving to New York City where he worked for 15 years. After a New Orleans vacation (and a detour into life working in upstate New York), Bigelow, like so many before him, found himself bitten by the Crescent City bug.
“My wife and I first visited New Orleans about 13 years ago and immediately fell in love,” he said. “We decided we had to figure out a way to live here. So, for me, first and foremost, it was about getting out of New York and relocating and living in this great city. We never shook our desire to live in New Orleans. That desire only grew when our daughter, Willa Cash, was born, because we wanted her to grow up in New Orleans, experiencing the history, music and culture that make this place so special.”
Bigelow decided to pursue a lifelong passion, launching Poet Motors online in 2018 and a brick-and-mortar location on Josephine Street in April 2019.
“I practiced law at a big firm in NYC for 10 years. I was up for partner and had to decide if this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The answer was ‘no.’ Luckily, my loving, generous and very understanding wife supported my crazy decision. I had always loved motorcycles – riding, tinkering, collecting. I have been a motorcycle enthusiast for many years and have a small collection of vintage and new motorcycles. It was always a dream of mine to have a small motorcycle shop to share my passion with others. So, the swing was all about following my passion and desire to live life to the fullest. I think this is something we New Orleanians are better than anyone at,” he said.
Poet Motors is located in the Lower Garden District, tucked in with a tight community of neighboring boutiques, businesses and creative makers; a location that has proved to be a win-win for Bigelow, the shop, plus the community-driven products and lifestyle he and his fellow business owners provides.
“Poet Motors shares space with The Good Shop, a collaborative shop based in New Orleans featuring ethical gifts by local makers,” he said. “Many of the products in the Shop give back charitably, and all strive to make a beneficial impact for our community. Poet Motors gives a percentage of all its sales to the Preservation Hall Foundation, which works to protect, preserve and perpetuate New Orleans music and culture. I like to joke that I have the best-smelling motorcycle shop in the World, as Poet Motors is wedged between the scented candles and soaps of The Good Shop and the perfumes of Smoke Perfume.”
In addition to amazing aromas, the collaborative shop model has provided Poet Motors with benefits that go beyond the location itself, particularly during the height of the COVID-19 quarantine. As the pandemic created new barriers for both new and established businesses, both locally and across the U.S., many are seeing a decided benefit from working together. According to Main Street America (MainStreet.org), shared retail spaces provide a leg up for new businesses, help to overcome the limits of space availability, regulate rent prices and create a feeling of community with a “mini ecosystem” of their own.
“A great benefit of the collaborative shop model Poet Motors is part of, is that we all share the duties of working at the Shop, and the expenses that go along with having a retail space,” Bigelow said. “A good deal of Poet Motors business comes from tourism, particularly tourists making their way down Magazine Street, and obviously many of those folks disappeared over the past two years. I’m grateful for our collaborative model, which probably allowed for Poet Motors to survive the pandemic. Things have improved as the city and world reopen so I’m hopeful for the future.”
The distinct Poet Motors brand logo, which can be found on the store’s collection of high-quality T-shirts, hats, neck gaiters and more, came from Bigelow’s own fascination with vintage design.
“I’ve always loved the ‘wheel and wings’ logos motorcycle companies and motorcyclists have used historically, and I also thought the idea of Edgar Allan Poe in a motorcycle helmet would be a perfect image. And I worked with some talented artists and designers to turn my sketches into reality.”
In addition to cool apparel, Bigelow’s curated collection of accessories includes books, vintage items (imagine the coolest, most classic leather jacket you can think of, a la Steve McQueen), hip flasks, Zippo lighters and a specially designed magnetic tank bag, developed in collaboration with local makers at Tchoup Industries.
Poet Motors’ website, in addition to providing the store’s accessories, is a one-stop shop for ideas, videos, clips, writing and more, embracing life on the open road. But, for Bigelow, developing Poet Motors goes well beyond a brand, boutique or lifestyle shop. For him, and for many of the fans of the shop, it comes from a place much deeper.
“People often ask why I love motorcycles, which can be difficult to explain. I think it’s the immediacy and visceral nature of riding. In a car, you are separated from the world around you, looking through the windshield like watching television. On a motorcycle, you are connected with the world and the machine, but you are alone. It’s meditative. I also love the mechanical nature of motorcycles – especially vintage motorcycles. They can be worked on, repaired, and made to operate better, but they have personalities and foibles. There is nothing better than when a 50-year-old motorcycle is dialed in, running beautifully.”