Billy Joel opens Oyster Bay motorcycle shop
He's moving in.
"I think we're already a success," Joel said, sitting among a dozen or so of the motorcycles he has helped design and refurbish over the years. "You don't have to make money to be a success."
Though Joel is suffering from a congenital hip ailment that will require surgery later this month, he walked quickly, with the help of a cane, leading his guests and various dignitaries through the Audrey Avenue shop's showroom. One minute, he's discussing the merits of his beloved 1952 Vincent Rapide bike, the next he's explaining how the European tradition of "cafe racers" - contests that involve rushing via motorcycle through city streets from one cafe to another - has been transplanted to Brooklyn.
His 20th Century Cycles showroom, which will be open to the public on weekends starting Sunday, isn't really designed for high volume sales. It's meant to show how Joel and his partners in the company have customized and modified his bikes and offer ideas to other enthusiasts.
"It reflects the economy right now," Joel said. "People can't afford to buy expensive stuff. They have to do their own custom work at home in the garage and they have to start with an inexpensive bike. A lot of these bikes are like that."
Joel is equally excited about his shop helping spur growth in Oyster Bay, a town he has lived in off and on since he was 17, when he got his first apartment.
"I've always been enchanted by this little village," he said. "It was a lot more bustling then, which is why I like Sag Harbor now, because it reminds me of how it was here. Little by little, there's some revitalization and it's good to be a part of it."
His efforts drew Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to the shop Saturday. "This is how you build a downtown," Mangano said. "You create places that draw people. This is great news."
The motorcycle shop is one of the many projects Joel has been working on this year, along with promoting his documentary "Last Play at Shea," as he stepped away from touring to focus on family and friends. However, Joel said he will be performing again next year, though that will come only after his surgery and recovery.
"This is the longest time I've had off in I don't know how long - and I had fun," he said. "But I'm ready to start playing again."