Words and photos by Jeff Alexander
After kustom builder Evan Favaro met Mark Chiancone on the set of American Choppers, both knew they would be collaborating again. Chiancone was looking for ways to grow his distilling passion while Favaro was working to relocate SpeakEasy Motors, his New Jersey-based kustom shop. Settling in the majestic Hudson Valley, Favaro was happy to leave the city behind and ultimately launch SpeakEasy Motors Whiskey.
“Working at Orange County Choppers was such a great opportunity! I met Mark who worked on the film production side and it was overall a great experience, though a little nerve-wracking to have people film me all the time while working. I’d work at OCC 7 to 3 and then shoot down to Jersey to work at my shop. I eventually got tired of that rat race and moved SpeakEasy to the Hudson Valley, which I love,” exclaimed Favaro.
Chiancone was still focused on distilling but ‘lacked a kick to get started,’ as he put it. Favaro completed the move and both revisited discussions on independent brewing and distilling. Working to unite moto culture with the burgeoning craft beer and spirits business. Chiancone felt there was a disconnect between breweries and the lifestyles they were marketing to.
“I was seeing bigger companies use certain images that didn’t always match up with the actual owners and lifestyles they were marketing. All the cars featured on our labels were built by Evan in his shop and this makes things a little more authentic,” stated Chiancone.
The Hudson Valley has earned a reputation for bringing farm-to-table food & beverages to communities, but the ongoing economic shift was pricing out locals while catering to its growing celebrity clientele. Additionally, the area has always attracted riders but there weren’t any business meetups exclusively celebrating moto culture, or kustom shops building ‘rods and bikes.
“When I first worked up here and started riding, I was blown away by the awesome riding routes and the nature. Moving SpeakEasy Motors here has really helped because the overhead is far less than New Jersey. I love utilizing my skills as a fabricator and support has been strong, I’m actually booked and backlogged until 2023! So, I guess that means I’m doing well,” laughed Favaro.
SpeakEasy Motors recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Starting from its humble New Jersey roots, Favaro stated he would work on anything to keep the lights on; snowblowers to lawn equipment. He quickly earned a reputation for his attention to detail and prided himself on creating relationships.
“Whether it’s the whiskey part of the business or building, I approach creating relationships the same. You never know if a chance meeting can lead to something bigger.”
For Favaro, his chance meeting with Carey Hart at a Daytona bike event in 2018 led to a kustom project with Indian, further growing his fabricating reputation. Hart and Favaro collaborated on the King Killer project, a kustom Indian for Hart that would blend motocross with track racing in a street-styled vision.
“Carey and his wife, Pink were so down to earth and welcoming. They flew me out to work on the project and it was such a fun time together! I didn’t know Pink was such a wine connoisseur and they have acres and acres dedicated to wine. They invited me over and she was checking out photos of my builds. She fell in love with one and asked me if it was available. I totally gave her the ‘I don’t wanna sell it price’ and she actually agreed. I sometimes still think about that bike,” laughed Favaro.
Favaro takes the same excitement for moto culture and blends it with his newly launched spirits business. Sharing Chiancone’s conviction that there was a void in the independent spirits business, both worked relentlessly to begin their new venture. Developing a business & marketing plan, refining distillation techniques, securing property, and joining a competitive market were all challenges the duo willingly accepted.
“I learned New York laws were pretty favorable for independent distillers. Depending on volume, you weren’t subjected to strict distribution laws which allowed things to be more affordable. We support local New York farmers and all our grains are locally sourced so it’s great to support those businesses while we work to earn support from them and the community,” said Chiancone.
Asked how SpeakEasy Motors Whiskey will navigate through the crowded independent alcohol business, Favaro stated their backstory sets them apart.
“I feel we’re different because we focus on bringing back the Prohibition-era with our ingredients and imagery. People love to celebrate the idea of the outlaw. Look at Bonnie & Clyde, people are still interested in those figures as well as other gangsters. The era would use quality ingredients in cocktails and we learned people are not afraid to pay for quality. Also, our backstory is unique because how many independent breweries have kustom builders? Whenever we do a promo event, I always bring a car or bike from the shop that was on the label,” he stated.
As SpeakEasy Motors Whiskey works to complete their tasting room and expand, Favaro reflected on his journey to the Hudson Valley and his fabrication career.
“I’m looking to maintain balance; Working to make high-end builds for customers while also doing quality work for passionate riders. The same approach for the whiskey end; Create the best product while making sure it’s attainable and not pricing everyone out.”
Favaro continues embracing an inclusive mentality with his newer clientele. Despite having experiences building for celebrities like Shaq while at Orange County Choppers, he remains well aware that not every enthusiast has the cash to bring their vision to reality.
“It doesn’t matter if someone rides in with a bike that most people don’t think much of because it’s their bike and it means everything to them! I will always work my best for someone that is passionate. Moving forward, I want to keep the early, rare stuff alive while keeping the craftsmanship profession alive. Ultimately, my next challenge is to work on Duesenbergs and really rare stuff because not many people ever get to experience them. If I can keep those running and share with people, that would be satisfying,” concluded Favaro.
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