The 30-foot by 30-foot building was a destination spot for more than 40 years for motorcyclists who sought to have their bikes fine tuned and repaired in an efficient manner at reasonable rates.
Ray Jenkins, a 1968 graduate of Grant High School, was the sole owner of the business for practically the entire duration of the business’s operation, which began in 1976.
In speaking about the founding of Cycle Tune, Jenkins said, “It was a motorcycle repair place set up by a guy by the name of Richard Northam, and he was a highway patrol officer that worked graveyards. He had a family of four kids and a wife and he wanted to get into some kind of business and he liked motorcycles and there were a lot of officers that had bikes. So, he was there for about six months (before Jenkins became a partner in the business).”
Jenkins explained that his road toward becoming involved with Cycle Tune began when he was 20 years old.
“I had gotten away from junior college and decided just to go to work,” Jenkins said. “I tried different things, welding and working in restaurants and (other jobs), but I realized I wanted to do something I enjoyed. So, one guy brought up this idea, and said, ‘There’s something called the state rehab vocational department.’ And I go, ‘What do you mean?’ He goes, ‘Well, you’ve got your handicapped arm.’ And I do. I have an arm that was injured during birth. It’s not fully developed and formed. So, I went down to downtown Sacramento, got an appointment and saw a fellow, and he said, ‘All right, I can see that you qualify because of your arm. So, what would you like to do?’ And I never had given it a great deal of thought, so I said, ‘How about a brain surgeon?’ And he said, ‘No, the state wouldn’t pay for that.’ I just said that to throw it on the table. And he goes, ‘Okay, what’s your other idea?’ And I thought, ‘I love motorcycles.’ So, I said, ‘Be a motorcycle mechanic.’ And he goes, ‘All right, then this is what we’ll do. You go out and you find yourself a situation with a (motorcycle) shop and if they will hire you, we’ll buy all of your tools and a tool box and we’ll pay half your wages for three years.’”
In being motivated by the offer, Jenkins went seeking a job and eventually acquired one at a shop that sold Kawasaki motorcycles off Jefferson Boulevard in West Sacramento.
Although he was not a mechanic, Jenkins told the business’s owner that he was a mechanic, thus forcing himself into a sort of “sink or swim” situation.
And Jenkins explained that he nearly sunk in his attempt to repair a Yamaha RD 250 two-stroke motorcycle with a transmission problem.
“I spent the better part of two weeks trying to get that thing together,” Jenkins said. “I was about ready to quit, because I was just tired of going to work and having to face the same machine day after day.”
Jenkins said that the very day that he was heavily considering quitting his job, he put the motorcycle together correctly.
After about two years of working at the West Sacramento shop, Jenkins moved on to other jobs, including working at a Suzuki dealer at Broadway and Franklin Boulevard and in the repair department of A&S Motorcycle Parts at 3501 3rd Ave.
Jenkins explained that he was given the opportunity to become involved with Cycle Tune during a period of his life when he was receiving unemployment checks.
“(The situation) just kind of fell into my lap or whatever,” said Jenkins, who was then riding a Bridgestone 350 motorcycle. “He needed a partner and I fit what he needed being a mechanic.
“How it worked out was I stopped and talked to (Northam, who was then riding a Honda CB 400 F) and he was a nice fellow, but I could tell that he wasn’t a mechanic. So, he would be like cleaning the bikes with a rag and changing oil. He could do that, but as far as like a tuneup or whatever, he had no idea how to adjust valves or sync carbs or what, you know. So, the second time I stopped by, I was talking to him and he said, ‘Be my partner.’ He needed somebody there that was a mechanic. He had a little bit more knowledge about the business aspect and licenses and sales tax numbers and that sort of thing.”
Jenkins mentioned that his acceptance of that offer led to his sole ownership of the business.
“I could tell that (Northam) was just burned out,” Jenkins said. “I never saw anybody that could lean standing up against a wall and take a nap. He was working eight-hour shifts at night in the patrol car and he’s got a family and then he’s trying to run Cycle Tune for 40 hours a week. So, we were together the better part of the year, I believe, and then he just came up to me one time and said, ‘Ray, I can’t do this. There (are) not enough hours in the day and I’m getting exhausted and I’m not spending enough time with my family. So, (the business) was sort of like dumped in my lap. I had never run a business. It was kind of scary. You know, there it is and you have to learn.
“So, how he put it was, ‘Ray, I know you don’t have a whole lot of money, so pay me half of the inventory.’ He made up some kind of figure like $5,000 or $8,000 or whatever it was and he said, ‘You can pay me when you can pay me.’ So, it was like pretty economical (to purchase the business) and he was more than generous. And we continued to be friends and I (would go) over and visit him and his family and we would go on motorcycle rides and things like that.”
Jenkins, who spent many years playing tennis during his spare time, said that Cycle Tune was a service-only, non-sales business that would also order specific parts to meet a customer’s need.
In recalling a fond memory of his business, Jenkins mentioned that he became known for purchasing a new motorcycle every other year.
“(The new bikes) worked as a business catalyst,” Jenkins said. “When customers would come by (the shop), they would say, ‘Oh, that’s the new (Kawasaki) KZ750. I read about that in a magazine.’”
Although Jenkins hired various workers in the heyday of Cycle Tune in the 1970s and 1980s, he noted that he opted to work alone for the majority of the years he owned his business.
In reminiscing about the 1980s, Jenkins said that Cycle Tune would then continuously work on about 18 motorcycles at a time.
Jenkins spoke with pride about his approach to his work and his determination to provide a high level of customer service.
“I was concerned about the quality of work that went through Cycle Tune,” Jenkins said. “A lot of my stuff that came to me was disenfranchised people that had been to dealers, paid a ton of money and got crap work. And so they would come looking for an alternative. So, I went out of my way to make sure (a bike) worked properly, and (its problem) was figured out. I test drove it and if there was an issue, no problem, bring it back, I’ll take care of it. So, I got a pretty good reputation in Sacramento over those 40 years.”
Jenkins, who began working alone in about 1985, recalled being informed about a proposal for the property that would lead to the closure of Cycle Tune.
“My landlord – and there were about four of them over 40 years – at the time, Tessa was his gofer person. (She) was the woman that would go around and do the legwork and collect the money and rent and deal with problems and what have you. And she told me that (a sale of the property) was in the works, that an offer had been made and it looked like something that was coming up. It was an independent (buyer). I think some investors from Southern California. In other words, I knew in March, April (of 2013) that stuff was going to be happening. By May, I’m contacting AT&T to try to garner my old (business) phone number that I had for 40 years.”
It was also at that time that Jenkins had a contractor working on a small shop behind his Arden area home for the purpose of creating a work space where he could continue working on bikes of other people on a hobby basis.
Jenkins, who presently rides a Yamaha Majesty 400 and a 1984 Honda Trail CT110, was completely moved out of the old Cycle Tune building by July 2013.
In regard to earlier history of the corner that included the Cycle Tune building, a residential structure was built on the property in about 1921. It was originally the home of a cement worker named Edwin S. Johnston. That building, which had the address of 916 31st St. (the original name of Alhambra Boulevard), was the home of John C. Silver, a carpenter, from about 1924 to about 1925.
East Sacramento resident Theodore A. “Teddy” Kellogg operated an automobile repair shop in a building on the same site from about 1925 to about 1960. The structure was then demolished.
A building at 910 Alhambra Blvd. stood for about a quarter century, and was home to a business known as Alhambra Auto Laundry.
One of the earlier advertisements for that business, which opened in early 1945, includes the following words: “Alhambra Auto Laundry. Washing, polishing, waxing, simonizing, steam cleaning, clean radiator on car, hot tank for cleaning motors for overhaul. Free pickup and delivery service. Dial 2-6438.”
Ward N. Cooper, who resided with his wife, Tessie, at 1014 E St., was the business’s original proprietor.
Other owners of the business were Wylie B. Abney (about 1947 to about 1949); Anthony I. and Oreno J. Tonarelli (about 1949 to about 1952); Anthony I. Tonarelli, sole owner (about 1952 to about 1964); and James O. Hawkins (about 1964 to about 1966).
Wayne E. Lee was the auto laundry’s owner when the business closed in about 1969.
As for the Cycle Tune building, it was originally the structure of the Rio Grande Service Station that was then owned by East Sacramento resident Virgil M. Nott from about 1939 to about 1940.
Nott sold the business to Henry C. Bangham, who sold the business to Virgil L. Overholt about a year later.
A 1942 advertisement for Overholt’s Rio Grande includes the following words: “Just like new. We use an electric process for wax and simonizing. Try this modern method! Have your car simonized for winter protection. Coupes, $6.00, sedans, $7.50. Phone for appointment.”
In mid-February 1943, the station, according to a crime report, was burglarized and three dozen spark plugs were stolen.
By 1945, Lemuel F. Young had acquired ownership of the business.
The establishment was known as Brown Bros. gas station from about 1946 to about 1948.
A Richfield Service Station operated under various owners at different times from about 1948 to about 1957, when the future Cycle Tune building became home to the Alhambra Garage.
In about 1968, after about two years of vacancy, the building had a new tenant, Luther’s Garage, which was owned by East Sacramento resident Richard Luther. The business provided Citroën parts and services.
The building was once again vacant from about 1970 to about 1972, at which time arrangements were being made for the building to be demolished.
In about 1973, Leon Cenur began operating the MCS Volkswagen maintenance shop at that site.
And after another period of vacancy, the structure became home to the final pre-Cycle Tune business in the building – Yucon Delta House Boats. That business was owned by Jack Ferguson.
The recent demolition of the old Cycle Tune building represents an end of an era, as the structure was the last surviving building that had stood on the southwest corner of Alhambra Boulevard and I Street during a time when the Alhambra Theatre (present site of Safeway) and Helvetia Park (present site of Sutter Middle School) were a part of the area’s attractions.