Motorcycle mamas ?? and one papa ?? on a caffeine-fueled mission

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April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

New East Bank coffee shop promotes female biking the family way

Even wimpy scooter riders are welcome at the new motorcycle-themed East Bank coffee shop Betty's Bikes and Buns. All you need is "two wheels and a motor -- we're nondenominational," said Lindsey Roe, a petite, 21-year-old hipster who runs the place with her two sisters, Alexx, 17, and Shannon, 19, and parents Robyn and Tom.

The Roes are keen on BMWs and Hondas -- quieter bikes than Harleys. They live in the Kingfield neighborhood of Southwest Minneapolis and had been talking for years about opening a shop when they settled earlier this year on an old Mobil gas station at 600 E. Hennepin Ave., just northeast of Downtown.

For years, the Roes have attracted throngs of bikers outside their home for coffee and cinnamon roles from Uptown's Isle's Bun and Coffee Company, 1422 W. 28th St.

"This is just literally going to be an extension of what it was like at our house," Robyn Roe said of Betty's.

The coffee shop has the feel of a smaller, more laid-back Bob's Java Hut -- the popular Uptown biker coffee shop. Like Bob's, the

old gas-station-turned-coffee-bar has large garage doors that open onto a patio with extra seating.

Besides peddling coffee, the sassy Roe women have another mission in mind: promoting biking among women.

"We aren't just the passengers anymore," said Lindsey Roe as she stood with her mother and sisters behind the counter, a day before Betty's officially opened June 19.

The Roe daughters have biked their whole lives -- starting out on dirt bikes and three-wheelers when the family lived in Las Vegas.

Robyn Roe said the family has always put safety first and been very "gear-conscious." The Roe daughters have taken spills and dropped their bikes, but no one has had an injury that has sent them to the hospital.

Despite their assertive demeanors, breaking into a world dominated by macho men can be intimidating, they said.

They hope to build community among other female riders -- veterans and novices.

"It's very difficult to get into [biking] because men who work at dealerships, motorcycle-part stores do not take women riders seriously," Lindsey Roe said.

Alexx Roe, the tall, willowy youngest sister, said, "Women riders are very underestimated."

For all their confidence, the Roe women have a disarming quality that makes one feel welcome immediately in their biking haven adorned with vintage motorcycling memorabilia. Two 1960s-era bikes are on display to the right of the counter -- a Yamaha and a Husqvarna.

The Roes rent the space from Central Hennepin Autobody, 620 E. Hennepin, which previously used the old gas station for extra storage.

Tom Shupien, who co-owns the auto-body shop with his brother Rick, said he was excited for the Roes' new business. "I think they have a good idea," Shupien said.

While some neighbors raised objections earlier this year about the coffee shop's potential to attract noisy guests, Shupien said the Roes have been respectful tenants.

At an April public hearing on the new business, Tom Roe pledged to keep noise levels down in face of opposition from the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association and Wilde Roast Caf/, 518 E. Hennepin Ave. -- a new coffeehouse just south of Betty's.

The Roes said some people harbor misconceptions about bikers as a scary and noisy lot.

"We're bikers, are we scary?" Alexx Roe asked with a girlish smile.

"We feel like we're getting to be more mainstream," Robyn Roe said.

The Roes have made friends from all walks of life who have become part of a vast, national network of BMW Club riders. Riders from out of town frequently crash at their house.

They insist that biking is a passion shared by all types of people. "Young, old -- everybody. Every color, every shape. The homeless, the rich, the doctors, the students. No one cares what they do. ... You have the kid who is struggling to pay his rent talking with the doctor who makes $500,000, and money never comes up," Lindsey Roe said.

The only thing they pay attention to is the wheels.

"Yeah, they pull up and you say, 'Oh, that's so and so. That's their ride and their gear. I couldn't tell you their last name or what they do for a living," Alexx Roe said.

The Roes aren't just biking to be trendy, either. It's a lifestyle and a way to see the country from a different perspective. The family has four bikes and it's not uncommon for one of them to ride off to Wisconsin for lunch on a whim.

"When you're on a motorcycle, you don't have your windows, you don't have your radio. You're just part of the scene. You're all by yourself. You could be with 100 people and still be all by yourself," Lindsey Roe said.

Tom Roe, who is more demure in demeanor than his daughters and let them take center stage during an interview, shared their views on biking.

He envisions the coffee shop as a gathering place for all types of bikers.

"It's going to be a fun place people can come and enjoy a segment of motorcycling that they might not be aware of," Roe said.

Roe has biked nearly his whole life and had no trouble turning his wife and daughters on to his passion.

"It's a very intimate thing," he said. "When you're on a motorcycle, you're in the scene. You see, hear and smell everything."

Betty's Bikes and Buns is open daily, 6 a.m.-11 p.m. The Roes sell a range of coffees, juices, Italian sodas, ice cream, malts, salads, soups and baked goods, including Isle's pastries.

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