James Annis, East Bay Custom Cycles, Bristol, RI
Opening his garage doors to the public in May of 2017, Jim Annis owns and operates East Bay Custom Cycles (EBCC) at his home in Bristol, Rhode Island. After retiring from a long career of public service, Big Jim and his son, Jimmy, customize and repair Harley-Davidson motorcycles. A newcomer to the business world, these first 15 months have been a continual learning process. Not afraid of a challenge however, the Annis family has risen to the occasion.
In September of 2016, Annis retired from the Bristol Police Department after 24 years of service. Under his belt, he also carries 35 years with the Bristol Fire Department and 20 years with US Coast Guard. Accustomed to an active lifestyle and no stranger to hard work, a new project was quickly in the making. This time? Motorcycles.
The garage specializes in Harley-Davidson modifications, as well as, offering general repair services. Annis comments, “The biking world likes to show off.” Whether it be upgrading components to a shinny chrome finish or installing LED body-light systems, he can make a bike stand out. It’s not all frills and fashion however; Annis recounts of a three-wheel, trike, repair; a customer came to him because of trouble with the clutch. In routine fashion, the problem was diagnosed, necessary parts were ordered, and the problem was fixed. Big Jim reports, “The customer is loving her bike and loving life.” Operating with quality-over-quantity values, the work speaks for itself.
In addition to mechanics, EBCC is a certified RI Department of Transportation motorcycle inspection station. Being one of few inspection stations in the Easy Bay, this service provides a slow, but steady income for the business. While working on bikes, Annis prioritizes saftey, providing solutions for any additional work needed to come into compliance. This home-grown inspection station is particularly unique because the others in the area are all part of corporate dealerships.
Annis’ business education didn’t require mechanic training. Big Jim is a long time motorcycle enthusiast; Jimmy as well. Jimmy who is a current member of the Providence Police Department, works a motorcycle detail. Nevertheless, when it came to business ownership, Big Jim was a rookie. He says, “I knew nothing about running a business.” Whether it be navigating sales taxes, maintaining finial records, or obtaining necessary licenses, Annis was in the dark. Certain of his business goals, Annis contacted the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center, who then connected him with the Center for Women and Enterprise (CWE). Not only does CWE work with women entrepreneurs, but also veteran’s and local communities - Big Jim’s beard and burly stature found a welcoming home.
Annis took a variety of courses with CWE. Unburdened by cost or scheduling conflicts, he was free to pick and choose the specific courses needed. The two to four hour classes were accompanying to his novice, starting off slow with independent lessons. Annis took a variety of classes learning about subjects like how to start a business, how to leverage credit, marketing, and finance management. Since dealing with the day-to-day of EBCC, Annis next plans to take a book-keeping class.
No education can create passion or vision. Starting solely with out-of-pocket investment, EBCC has become much more than a hobby. Big Jim sees his future both short and long term. First step, attaining financial sustainability by the time Jimmy enters retirement (in the next few years). Second, expanding operations to a commercial building. And ultimately, developing a team of employees: mechanics to crank wrenches and support staff for business management. As their inertia builds, the Annis family continues to add more and more investment into EBCC. Soon enough, the father and son duo will be able to give their full focus to their passion… and with luck, they’ll be able to afford hiring a grandson.
Special thanks to CWE volunteer writer, J. Morgan Henry.