Hard rock projects out into the streets from Charlie’s Place, near the corner of 17th and Folsom streets. The music wafts past a row of impeccably maintained cafe racer motorcycles and their casual counterparts; the shabby ones are not part of the elegant collection that’s on display daily in front of the motorcycle repair shop. There, perfectionist owner Charlie O’Hanlon toils away at restorations and, every now and then, artwork.
O’Hanlon bought the shop in 1998. With his art school background and his love for Japanese ingenuity, he launched the business with the hope of becoming something of a virtuoso in the industry.
In addition to restoring Hondas, O’Hanlon plays music in local bands and uses what he calls “Honda scraps” to make sculptures and guitars, many of which he has sold or displayed in galleries. A six-foot-tall “Motozilla” metal monster, which could be considered his pièce de résistance, is made of motorcycle elements from winding tail to spiked teeth. It looms over those who walk by the open-air garage.
Mission Local’s video of Charlie’s Place, above, provides a glimpse of a Mission original — just one of the many eccentric personalities that make the neighborhood a rich environment for artists and inventors.