Black Widow Bike Works owner Joy Luv Montefusco, left, and her right-hand man, Mike Jastrzemski, are quietly making a name for themselves in the Red Bank area. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
It was June of last year, and Joy Luv Montefusco was within a week of moving to Chicago with old art school friends to pursue poetry. She’d had enough.
Montefusco said she’d faced opposition from the moment she graduated the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Arizona, where she was laughed at for applying for a job at Harley-Davidson because she was a female. But even when she landed a job the company, Montefusco said she didn’t get a workbench to use.
“I worked on the floor, on my hands and knees, for the first four months,” Montefusco, 30, said. “A lot of the guys didn’t even talk to me.” She left the company after she was told she’d never make it as a mechanic, and started her own business, Black Widow Bike Works, in Toms River.
After three years of working long days in a rickety building trying to convince people that she could do top-notch work, Montefusco decided to give up her dream and pack it north. But then her girlfriend pushed her to give it one more shot. Black Widow specializes in “creating art” out of motorcycles, Montefusco said. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)
“After everything that had happened to me and all the bullshit I went through, I was ready to say, ‘forget it, I’ve had too much,’ ” she said. “But it’s like God said, OK, Joy, one last chance.”
She’s happy she took it. Now located on Newman Springs Road in Shrewsbury, Black Widow has, in the six months it’s been open, cultivated a growing list of clients needing work done, from a simple spark plug change to complete bike overhauls the end of the business Montefusco wants to be known for.
Black Widow is not a service shop, although it will gladly service your bike. It’s also not primarily a place to buy a motorcycle, though you can. Rather, Montefusco said, it’s a custom motorcycle shop, or, as she says, a place “to create art.”
She’s not talking about bolting together some metal and wheels and slapping on a shiny paint job. What Montefusco and her sidekick/friend/employee Mike Jastrzemski are doing is custom custom, such as taking a newer model bike, chopping it up and turning it into a replica of an old saddlebag.
“People want to order stuff out of a magazine and call it custom,” Jastrzemski said, “but putting a Harley front end on a Suzuki, that’s real custom.”
The duo is putting in the work to prove themselves. Their posted business hours are merely for show. When there’s a serious job to be done, Jastrzemski said it’s typical to have midnight phone conversations with Montefusco going over the next day’s work, then getting busy on it before the sun breaks the horizon.
Jastrzemski said it seems to be paying off. Over the summer and early fall, the shop had so many orders pending that he had to move bikes out of the bay garage and into the parking lot to work on other projects.
Although Black Widow hasn’t quite set itself as a leader in custom bikes, Montefusco believes it will, and judging by the volume of orders the shop’s receiving, a second shop may be in the cards.
Considering what she’s been through, where she’s at and where she sees herself in the future, Montefusco said taking a look into the sideview mirror before blazing up to the Windy City was worth it.
“I don’t wish anybody bad or anything. If they hadn’t bit into me so hard I wouldn’t have went out on my own,” Montefusco said. “I’m proud.”