Murals and mopeds are going to be the heart of an Eastside building.
Husbands Patrick Hershberger and Chad Burke purchased what was a former retail store at 1226 E. Michigan Ave.
“Part moped-everything, part art studio and storage,” says Hershberger.
The exterior is the third part that caught Hershberger’s eye. Like many old industrial buildings in Kalamazoo, it’s just there, a windowless box with train tracks right behind it. For seven decades it was the only scenery for road users and residents of the Eastside neighborhood to the northeast. Dull painted cinder block, built without styling around 1950.
Artist/muralist Hershberger says, “When I saw this building, personally, it was four blank canvases.”
His instinct is to reach for his spray cans. “But I want these canvases to be community oriented.”
Burke saw a safe, windowless space for his inventory of classic mopeds.
For 14 years, Burke had leased industrial space on Palmer from Edison for his moped business Quarter shot.
Specifically, “vintage European pedal-powered mopeds,” Burke says. From the 1950s onwards, “They come in all shapes and sizes, all designs. I have them from Italy, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Spain, Portugal , from France…just a ton of variety.” he says.
“I had my first one in ’87, and I’ve been ripping them out, riding them, and working on them ever since. My mom taught me how to rebuild my first engine.”
Through repair manuals thrown away by libraries, Burke taught himself the mechanics of mopeds and joined a community of others who love small electric bikes. Before COVID, rallies, rides and moped builds were part of his life from his own annual CBBG (the Chad Burke Build and Gather, which is set to return in person Dec. 8-12), to meet in Italy.
He traveled the country on small bicycles intended for city rides. His most memorable ride was an 1,860 mile drive from Nebraska to Oregon, “through four mountain ranges, all 14,000 feet in elevation, and this is the fifth time I’ve done one of those 1,000+ mile trips. Part of that is the challenge of operating something that’s not designed to go that far.”
He continues, “They’re fun… You feel free. Being on the road, with everything around you open and exposed, it’s very zen. I mean, you’re just more connected — you hear more, you see more, you feel more, you are simply more in touch with your surroundings.”
Hershberger says, “If you can’t tell, that’s his passion.”
They both laugh. Chad says, “and Patrick, he kind of…”
“I married mopeds.”
Hershberger doesn’t like mopeds?
“No, that’s the thing. I’m never going to be someone who picks on them. I’m going to ride them. I’m going to hang out and have fun and meet people and be part of the community, but that’s not It’s not something that came naturally to me. I didn’t come into it.
“It’s my job to keep his bike going,” Burke laughs.
They have different passions, but they looked to the future, realized that owning was better than renting, and that Hershberger needed more space for his art than the cramped studio in their Edison home. They formed Chadrick LLC and purchased 1226.
The building is approximately 6,700 square feet, including one floor and a basement. He came up with a piece of land that includes a vacant lot near the Kalamazoo City Water Pumping Station.
“I’m not always the most positive person when it comes to researching new things,” Hershberger says. “When he said, ‘hey, we have a tour of this new place.’ I came in very skeptical. I left thinking, ‘This is perfect.'”
“We have very different things that we do,” Hershberger says, but the building can accommodate them. He will have a paint storage space and a studio space, maybe a gallery space to show his work. Burke has high ceilings for multiple bike racks and areas for bike mechanics, paint and bodywork.
They bought the building in November. Since both have day jobs, it’s been nights and weekends working on the building, dealing with needed upgrades and building quirks.
Upstairs from Hershberger’s studio was a secret apartment. In 2008, the former owner “suspected there was something above the room, so he drilled a hole and discovered a fully furnished apartment,” Hershberger says.
What was there appeared to date from 1985. It was probably inhabited from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. Burke says there must have been stairs outside the building, leading to a door, and “at some point they had bricked up the door and gone down the stairs”.
Unfortunately, the 20-year time capsule has been erased. The previous owner “was very driven by what was profitable, and to him it was just a bunch of old junk sitting in a room,” Burke said.
The two have no time to be distracted by the secrets of 1226, with a nation of mopeds looking to arrive for the CBBG in a few months, and with empty walls to cover with murals.
Does that feel overwhelming?
Both speak at the same time:
“It’s possible,” says Burke
“Every day,” Hershberger says.
“Well, I’m here every day,” Burke said.
“Yeah, but my anxiety drives me everyday, so…” They both laugh.
“We both realize this is a long-term project,” Hershberger says. “It’s something we both hope we can continue throughout our lives. It won’t be our home, but it will be our store away from home. We want to grow there.”
“I’m hoping for next spring,” Burke says, as to when the building will be 100% functioning. “There is a lot to put in place. It took me 14 years to transform the old store into what it has become.”
Represent the neighborhood
Hershberger’s first mural as the gateway to a Kalamazoo neighborhood was for Edison, a 1940s street scene Washington Square. It went up in 2019, on Howard’s Party Store at Stockbridge Avenue and Portage Street.
While working there, the inhabitants discussed with him. “One of the questions people have asked is, is this mural going to look like the neighborhood?” he says.
Although the scene is from the 1940s, it was meant to depict the residents of the diverse neighborhood as it is today. So he added people of different colors to the street scene, and with each he heard “This represents me” from the observers.
He knows that public art “should be fair and should represent the community in which it is located”.
The southwest side of 1226 serves as the perfect location for an Eastside walkway mural, hailing traffic passing through E. Michigan. On a background of a neighborhood, the map is made up of large capital letters, “EAST SIDE”, with faces inside the letters. The message is obvious, that a neighborhood is people.
Hershberger had help. Local children and adults, across the neighborhood house of peace and the Eastside Neighborhood Associationtook brushes to fill in the contours of the artist.
“There were a lot of good energies and good reactions while he was painting the mural,” Burke said. People honked or clapped their horns as they passed, “seeing something happening that represents their area.”
“We feel happy to have this space,” Burke says. “And working with the community. We’re looking at the things we can do to elevate this area.”
Hershberger has three more blank canvases, but “My goal is not to rush out and put a bunch of stuff on the walls. I want them to be projects that have meaning within the community,” he says. .
He wants the neighborhood to be involved, he knows that very well – “whether it’s me painting them, whether it’s a group project, whether it’s an outside artist.”
He adds: “I’d like to think we could be good neighbours.”