Lowrider bikes for kids and adults sit on the sidewalk outside Kali Certified Bike Shop in Desert Hot Springs on a recent Friday afternoon. The paint in different colors on the bikes glows in the sun, as if they were from the 70s.
Lowrider cars – classic cars that have been customized and lowered – are also parked outside the store.
Inside there are more bikes and accessories, such as whitewall tires and handlebars. The store also sells rims and hydraulic systems for lowrider cars. There is a selection of clothing and other sundries, such as Zippo-style lighters and small children’s toys.
Customers come in and out of the store to shop, pick up orders, or just look at the bikes.
One of the store’s three owners, Casey Lather, wears a black t-shirt advertising the lowrider club he belongs to, Nuttin ‘But Luv. Heavily tattooed, bald and over 6 feet tall, the Desert Hot Springs resident, 42, comes across as a common man but professional. Lather describes Kali Certified Bike Shop as a “one-stop-shop” where adults can buy bikes, accessories and something for the kids.
The Lowrider culture has roots in the Mexican-American and Chicano communities, particularly on the West Coast. It first appeared in Los Angeles in the 40s and 50s and was later popularized in music, and lowrider bikes started to appear in the 60s.
Culture, Lather says, comes with a lifestyle of social gatherings and auto shows.
“This is how we involve our children,” Lather said. “We teach them to use their hands and not everyone will be a lawyer, doctor or teacher. It shows children that it’s good to work with your hands and build beautiful things. It’s more than just a bicycle, it’s an Art Form. ”
Lather’s team also created an item they couldn’t keep in stock: the lowrider piñatas.
“You can’t get it anywhere else in the valley,” Lather said. “People who love lowriders throw parties for their kids by getting them bikes or something, it helps bring it all together.”
The pandemic helps businesses
Kali Certified Bike Shop opened in August near the intersection of Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard, across from the Playoffs sports bar and a few doors down from Desert’s Finest Dispensary. They have been constantly busy since opening, and Lather said business has tripled in two months.
“We’re right in the center (of town), which is very busy,” Lather said. “We’re right next to a dispensary that people find on (the app) Weedmaps and when we’re there with the bikes they end up coming here. It’s one of the best places in Desert Hot Springs for doing business. ”
The workshop has two apprentices who help with small repairs and replace the inner tubes of the bikes. For customers who want a custom bike, there is an offsite welder who makes the frames and customizes the parts. Lather estimates the store does five repairs a day, and the team is looking to hire a repair specialist who can work on the mountain bikes.
The spouses of the three owners also work in the shop.
Even though lowrider auto shows don’t take place, the pandemic is helping businesses. Customers don’t spend money to go to shows. “They are putting (the money) back in their cars and bikes and getting ready for the resumption of the season,” Lather said.
Building a lowrider doesn’t come cheap, and Lather estimates the start-up cost to be between $ 3,000 and $ 5,000 depending on the type of car, batteries, and hydraulic pumps. The store does not have a garage, but Lather’s goal is to move into a larger building with an elevator system for the facilities.
“We try to build them on a budget and sometimes we buy used pumps and try to fix them or install new wiring,” Lather said.
One of those budget clients is James Storey from Palm Springs. He is restoring an old Lincoln Towncar as a tribute to his brother Salvador “Chowder” Sevilla, who died in a car crash in San Diego in May.
“I’m doing it bit by bit and involving my kids as well,” Storey said. “It’s just a big family project. Instead of playing video games all day, they can work with me on the car.”
Shop owners seek to inspire young people
Outside of the store, Lather participates in lowrider events with Nuttin ‘But Luv, which has up to 18 members and currently has seven. They have participated in community events at Desert Hot Springs. He also travels to events in Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas.
To join Nuttin ‘But Luv, members start as prospects and earn their place in the club. Over the years, Lather said he had learned that it was difficult to grow a club and that members had “caused a lot of heartache” by putting resources into helping others just to leave and join. ‘other clubs.
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“You have to stay with us for a few months and see if we’re right for you,” Lather said. “The most important thing with us is that you have to stay active, that you must always progress in yourself and in your life, not just with your bike or your car. not what we are looking for. We are looking for someone who is always looking to take it to the next level. ”
Members are also expected to inspire local youth and teach them how to communicate lowrider culture to others.
“Older guys love it at auto shows when a kid can sit there and say, ‘This is how I built this, how I built that,” Lather said.
The store noticed that teenagers found old bikes in their neighborhood and came several times to buy parts. Sometimes they come back showing new paint jobs that they themselves put on the bikes.
“I can see the progress and it’s a beautiful thing,” said Lather.
Mr MooMoo, one of the store’s other owners, said the young people were interested in the store’s inventory of restored or customized bikes.
“If they are doing well in school, their parents could come and buy them the bike they saw in the window,” MooMoo said.
The owners are looking to develop their business. There are plans to purchase a flower shop in Desert Hot Springs in the near future, as well as to open additional stores in Colorado and Canada, Lather said.
But for now, Lather enjoys being his own boss after working as a line cook at various local restaurants and a moving company until last year.
“It’s not a job if you like what you do. For the first time in my life, I like coming to work,” Lather said.
Desert Sun reporter Brian Blueskye covers the arts and entertainment. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bblueskye. Support local news, subscribe to The Desert Sun.