by Michael McCauley, EVP Creative Level5 Events by The Expo Group
Janus headquarters on a Friday is a hive of activity — the fire pit’s going, a barbecue is furiously smoking, customers are picking up bikes, parts people are dropping off equipment, and of course there’s the day-to-day operation of building, selling and marketing motorcycles. Everyone is so engaged and so passionate about Janus bikes, it is infectious.
I felt like a proud member of an elite club last Friday when I went to the Janus factory for the first big maintenance on my Janus Halcyon 250. It was an epiphany of sorts about a very special place and time. It was an epiphany about work and what it means to be a maker.
I barely have time to breathe these days with work and travel and young children, and on and on. Yet, something compelled me to take the day off and head up to the Janus factory in Goshen, Indiana for the day.
The minute I arrived, I met Olaf of Antioch. His brand-new Halcyon 250 was strapped down, hitched to his Jeep, ready to hit the road. But he heard I was coming so he stuck around to meet me since we’ve met online —he is a big Vespa guy like me, and we’re going to ride with his crew this summer.
Next, I meet John, who is wearing one of those cool black jean jackets with the Janus logo and pushing a stroller with his grandson. It’s a family affair at Janus, John’s son Jordan heads up marketing.
“Hey, I’m John, I’m going to be working on your bike today.” Great, I say, so after grabbing a burger, John and I took #147 off my pickup and wheeled it into the garage.
I spent a bit of time with John, a self-taught mechanic who grew up fixing tractors on a local farm. He was showing me how to adjust the valves, but watching him I learned a ton more about these bikes and about his workmanship.
John was so incredibly thorough. Tightening the spokes, aligning the rear wheel, tuning the carb, changing the oil. All of this work is easy to do, but I would never have checked half the things John did, and now I will every month. Spending time working on my bike with my own hands is the way to really get to know your bike.
I took a break from the fine-tuning and explored Goshen’s Main Street area which blew me away. Across from Janus is a print shop with 100-year-old printing presses! It’s run by Janus founder Richard’s wife, and, like her husband’s work, everything is done by hand. Feeling the raised print on the toothy paper stock of her samples was just so cool.
In the next room at her shop, a woman is spinning pots on a pottery wheel. This part of the country is a hot bed for ceramics with its long tradition of beautiful handmade goods. The Janus coffee mugs are all handmade by one guy—and they are all different!
I was thrilled at all the handmade goods there in Goshen. Places like San Francisco, Seattle and Fulton Market in Chicago – home to Level5 Events offices — are hip today for being so-called “makerspaces.” Here, you have access to 3D printers, laser cutters and more for prototyping and modeling. And yet, the town of Goshen has been a true makerspace for decades. Quality goods made by skilled and passionate artists in small-town America.
How many towns like Goshen are out there? How many one of-a-kind offerings are available that we don’t yet know about? It does my heart good to see this kind of enterprise zone with truly singular, world-class products. I am hopeful the maker movement will continue to bring commerce back locally to small American towns that so desperately need it.
I realized this is how I want to spend my money – on products made with heart, soul and integrity.
And I realized the story of the makers in Goshen is what our guideposts at Level5 Events are all about: Design, Story and Meaning.
Michael McCauley is the EVP Creative for Level5 Events by The Expo Group.