Ever wonder what it would have been like if rock and roll had never gone farther than a certain radio station in Cleveland where the term was coined?
While the Ace Cafe in London was originally just a roadside diner, it has cemented its place in history as the foundation of the “ton up boys,” a group of young motorcyclists in the early 1950s who loved rock ‘n’ roll and who customized their motorcycles to reach speeds of 100 mph running from cafe to cafe.
It’s difficult to say what had more impact on the British public at the time – the music or the cafe racers that were beginning to pop up at roadside cafes along the London motorway. But one thing was for certain: the two lifestyles went hand-in-hand.
The Ace’s motoring heritage dates back to November 1938, when it was built as a roadside cafe to cater to truckers and motorists outside London. In November 1940, the cafe received a direct hit from a bomb during a World War II air raid and was completely destroyed. A temporary building was quickly erected so that business could continue, and today, some 76 years later, the Ace still operates in that same location.
The Ace Cafe London is an original that will never be duplicated, with a style and culture all its own. While the Ace has captured the attention of the world in the last 76 years, it recently picked up steam stateside when American Mark McKee partnered with Ace Cafe London to expand the brand into the U.S.
Ace Cafe London hosted events here on U.S. soil, beginning with the Barber Vintage Festival, the Bonneville Salt Flats Time Trials, and the New York Auto Show (among others), and is now ready to take it to the next level in a very unique location that includes the restoration of three historic industrial buildings in downtown Orlando.
“In the UK, the folks who love the Ace call themselves ‘Petrolheads,’” says McKee. “In the U.S., although we don’t use the word ‘petrol’ much, the Ace will occupy the same space in the hearts of people who share a common passion for something real and authentic, that speaks to their individuality and independence around expressing their love of machines and motors.”
The Ace in America is something that has been a long time coming, according to Mark Wilsmore, founder of Ace Cafe London. Wilsmore says that for years people have been asking him when the Ace was going to the U.S. Now, through a lot of hard work, and a little luck, the British are coming. Again. Only this time on bikes!
“For the last dozen years I have had Americans visiting the Ace every month and asking me when we would open an Ace in the states,” says Wilsmore. “The demand for the Ace brand has pushed us to the U.S. Our focus now is 100 percent on Ace Cafe Orlando, to give our customers a home to share their passion.”
McKee acknowledges that there were several locations in the U.S. that were in the running to be Ace’s first U.S. home, but Orlando won out for a variety of reasons. “We looked at a number of great cities, but Orlando quickly rose to the top of our list,” he explains. “Everything just fit.
The city was totally supportive, and we got a spectacular three-acre location in the middle of downtown with open parking. There’s great weather – plus there’s a ton of great clubs, poker runs, swap meets, and a huge interest in everything moto. AIMExpo is here, Bike Week and Speed Weeks are in Daytona; and there’s Sebring, Homestead, Bradenton, AMA pro racing … the list is endless.”
The location for the new Ace Cafe in Orlando will be right on the train tracks at 100 W. Livingston Street, so people from all sides of the tracks can convene. McKee says the plan is to renovate three rundown buildings that are almost 100 years old there – the former Harry P. Leu buildings.
There’s also a backyard garden located along the tracks that hasn’t been tended to in over 25 years that they are going to restore and replant with native and exotic plants, creating a place for outdoor patio dining, complete with walkways and outdoor BBQs, and an area to listen to live music and see great bikes.
“Although we share the same love of everything moto, we are not located on the outskirts of town, as we are in London,” says McKee. “Our location in downtown Orlando was selected purposely to be in the downtown core, in an area that we could help restore, in a location where residents and visitors to Orlando could get an authentic experience like you get in London.”
The Ace Cafe Orlando will be a moto-centric compound, with sub-tenants that will add to the appeal and excitement of the destination. McKee and his team say they are also going to partner with brands and businesses that will benefit from their strong marketing platform.
The Ace Cafe Orlando, along with partners Dime City Cycles and Cafe-Moto, will be exhibiting at the AIMExpo again this year in booths 2401A & 2301 and will have cafe racers on display, as well as Ace Cafe merchandise, and a couple of surprises.
And, to top it off, they are planning a Saturday evening concert in the AIMExpo lobby with Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats, playing all the greatest hits and more. McKee says, “AIMExpo is where the industry comes to meet, and we were fortunate to be here last year. And we’ll continue to be here. Plus, next year we’ll be open, so we’ll throw a big party for AIMExpo at the new Ace Cafe in downtown Orlando.”
The Ace is already well-known among the cafe racer crowd, but according to McKee and his team, there will be something for everyone at the new Ace Cafe Orlando, including hot rodders, muscle cars, V-twin cruisers and lovers of good music, good food and good times.
Ace Cafe USA has big plans for its new location and are targeting a Spring 2015 grand opening, so stay tuned to AceCafeUSA.com and MPN for the latest details.