Wipe away the stereotype of biker guys and gals hitting the highways on their Harleys, roaring up to a roadside burger joint for a cold one.
Picture instead stylishly clad men and women astride powerful and sleek motorbikes touring the countryside, meeting up at a small town café for a latte or glass of wine.
It is the latter that Laguna Beach resident Rolando Ortiz, owner and designer of EuroPapi Motorcycle Streetwear, sets his sights on. His mission is to popularize the European motorcycle lifestyle as represented by EuroPapi clothing, in the same way surf wear retailers and manufacturers sell the surf lifestyle.
EuroPapi’s first anniversary celebration Thursday, Nov. 3, beginning at 5:15 p.m. offers residents a crash immersion in the Euro-bike lifestyle. In addition to refreshments prepared by French 75, EuroPapi products will be raffled off, locals will receive a 20 percent discount on any purchases, and true aficionados can admire the hand-crafted, award winning Parilla Motorcycle by Todd Millar on display.
A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach.
The shop at 688 S. Coast Highway is equal parts showroom and museum. EuroPapi’s racks and shelves display various apparel and accessories items emblazoned with Ortiz’s original designs. Its walls feature photos of racers and events along with motorcycle memorabilia from around the world. Ortiz also displays and sells a number of both used and new-in-the-box vintage motorcycle helmets.
Ortiz first launched his designs under his own EuroPapi label in Spain. Europe provides a ready-made market where motorcycles are more popular and races draw a loyal crowd.
“We wanted to bring the EuroPapi brand to the States, and there was no better place than Laguna Beach,” said Ortiz, who thinks the town has more of a European vibe than other U.S. cities and offers an audience more likely to embrace his brand at his first and only retail location
Despite a talent for drawing, even winning a scholarship for a semester at Laguna College of Art and Design during high school, Ortiz’s design skills lay dormant for years. He worked in construction, his artistic eye serving him well in tile work and making granite countertops. Later, he flipped houses. In hindsight, his pleasure in designing a company logo foreshadowed his retail design endeavors.
But in 2007, Ortiz and his wife Ellie, who ran a paralegal business, decided they were ready to roll, literally. They left to travel and ride in Spain and Italy, where Ortiz has family, before settling for a year in Andalusia in southern Spain.
“I was always into cars, motorcycles and bicycles,” said Ortiz who restored antique bikes as a kid, and went on to restore old cars with his father and brothers. Ellie Ortiz’s father had owned a motorcycle shop.
Their sojourn in Europe deepened their appreciation for a culture that embraced motorcycles and ignited Ortiz’s passion for design.
Sitting at an outdoor café, ubiquitous motorcycles, Vespas and scooters steadily buzzing by, Ortiz remarked to his wife that “they’re like mosquitoes.” A distinctive design, a motorcycle crossed with a mosquito, came to Ortiz, and the EuroPapi logo was born.
Ortiz recognized the logo as a precursor to a clothing line that would appeal to vintage motorcycle owners, professional motorcycle racers and fans. He began by sponsoring Spanish motorcycle racers, one of whom won the championship in his class in 2009 wearing a EuroPapi shirt.
Designs that adorn his clothing keep coming, such as “RoboPapi,” which is half armored man, half motorbike, sort of a modern version of a centaur. And, of course, the female version, ChicaChopper.” They are sophisticated, racy and whimsical.
As he did in Europe, Ortiz aims to generate brand recognition for EuroPapi in the American motorcycle circuit at races such as Laguna Seca, Indianapolis and Austin, Tex., as well as setting up booths at events such as a vintage motorcycle rally held in Venice Beach last weekend.
Ortiz, who rides 2003 MotoGuzzi VII Sport, and also has a 1971 Bultaco Alpina on stand-by, has already found some local riders who share his enthusiasm for the sport and its lifestyle.
Pascal Gimenez, general manager of French 75, owner of a Triumph Bonneville T100, would like to see EuroPapi draw a larger circle of enthusiasts to join in rides.
Laguna resident Steve Dicterow, a declared candidate for the 2012 City Council race, experienced the European motorcycle lifestyle firsthand.
A former adviser to professional riders, Dicterow frequented the same racetracks as Ortiz and attested to a lifestyle that draws well-known sports and entertainment personalities. At one race, Dicterow recalled meeting actor Daniel Day Lewis, a fan of a contestant.
Asked if EuroPapi captures the European motorcycle culture, Dicterow said, “absolutely.”
EuroPapi is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more info, call 715-2022 or visit http://europapiUSA.com/.