Vintage Motorcycles Serve As Inspiration Behind West Palm Beach’s Burn Up Company
“We’re not your typical motorcycle people.”
Step one foot into The Barn—David Plotkin’s 6,379-square-foot facility in West Palm Beach—and you’ll see what he means. With over 100 antique motorcycles on display amidst a collection of relics from bygone days, his space is somewhere you’ll want to linger, regardless of whether or not you arrive with an interest in two-wheeled machines.
As a young man, Plotkin, who was born and raised in New York, looked for a hobby to keep his hands busy. “I’m really into anything with history of any kind—whether it’s race history, or interesting ownership, or just a cool story,” he says. “That’s a big appeal to me.”
His interest in old cars led him to begin restoring them, but Plotkin soon switched to motorcycles when he realized not only are they cheaper, but he could fit four into the space of one car. As Plotkin toiled after a marketing degree in college, he dreamed of turning his passion for rehabilitating vintage bikes into a way to make a living. When a friend of a friend offered to buy one of Plotkin’s bikes for more than he had invested into its refurbishment, a light bulb went off.
Plotkin used his eBay skills to sell parts online and eventually made the move to South Florida. Fast forward to today, and Plotkin’s passion for the exquisite craftsmanship of 1960s to 70s motorcycles has evolved into Burn Up Company and its two locations. The Barn is the main store, offering vintage motorcycles and parts for sale, as well as repair services. It also serves as a community space. The Annex is connected to Elizabeth Ave Station in West Palm Beach’s burgeoning Warehouse District, and offers motorcycle gear, apparel and parts.
“It’s very community-driven,” Plotkin says of The Barn. “We get all different types of walks of life. That’s my favorite part of what I do. We get so many different people [but] the unifying factor is that we all love these vintage bikes.”
“Vintage anything—no matter if it’s cars or sewing machines, whatever you’re into—you’re not buying an antique because you want something practical or rational. You buy an antique because it moves you on an emotional level. It has a soul. It had a life before us; it tells a story,” Plotkin continues. “Customers at Burn Up all share that passion, that understanding that there’s more to this than just being a tangible item that has a purpose. It’s got its own soul.”
Along with comfortable lounging space for enthusiasts and curious minds to gather, The Barn provides the chance to ogle project bikes like the Burn-1 Skycycle, which has a body constructed from the fuel cell of an F-86 Sabre—a 1950s fighter plane—powered by a 1970 Honda CB450 motorcycle engine. Mementos stemming from the golden age of motorcycling also find a home at The Barn. Curiosities like a pedaled carriage, retro video games and World War II memorabilia fill the spaces between bikes.
While the year-round riding weather helps position South Florida as an ideal place for antiques, Plotkin points out another factor. “To truly ride around an antique takes dedication. It takes care; it takes maintenance; it takes attention to detail. Not that it’s hard to do, but it takes passion. That symbolizes something to people,” he says. “[With] all these Lamborghinis and Ferraris that we’re surrounded with, nothing really brings me more joy than when someone—totally overlooking a much more expensive car—has to get a photo of an old bike. I see it happen all the time. We’ll be parked downtown amongst these $300,000 supercars and people just crowd around these little $2,000 Japanese bikes because they just don’t see ‘em,” he says.
Get a glimpse of Plotkin’s work for yourself at one of his monthly Bikes & Coffee meetups. Visitors can enjoy food trucks and complimentary coffee from Roasted Record while perusing a display of Burn Up Company’s long-term projects and proudest restorations. “It’s an opportunity to open up our doors, show people what we’re about.”
With Burn Up Company’s success, Plotkin has set his sights on continued expansion. “I really love what we’re doing here in West Palm Beach. I’m going to keep building the collection and putting cooler bikes out there, building our service, our customer base, and finding more of these bikes that are still out there, lost, that aren’t being touched that really should be out there and celebrated,” he says.
For Plotkin, the journey really is the destination.
The Barn, 500 Palm St., West Palm Beach; 561.475.1283; burnupcompany.com
The Annex, 1500 Elizabeth Ave., West Palm Beach; 561.475.1283; burnupcompany.com
Photos by Skye Sherman
Want to keep up to date with all the best events happening throughout the Palm Beaches? Sign up for our Society Sightings newsletter, which delivers a list of 30+ events in your inbox once a month. Interested in a print subscription? Click here.