When Mike Corbin made the decision to move his company, Corbin Motorcycle Seats and Accessories, from Castroville to Hollister in 1998, he wanted to add one important feature to the new building located on Industrial Drive across the street from Hollister Municipal Airport: a cafe.
BenitoLink sat down in a corner booth with Corbin recently to discuss why he opened Wizard’s Cafe, along with his internationally known motorcycle seat business.
Over a cheeseburger (BenitoLink) and hotdog (Corbin), the business owner said most of his products are shipped to customers, but a number of motorcycle riders come directly to the facility to get their custom-made seats. He said while in Castroville customers had to sit at a picnic table out in the cold fog while waiting for their seats to be made, in Hollister he wanted to change that.
“We said let’s put a diner in,” Corbin said. “We didn’t know it was going to cost so much [$400,000], but it came out good and it’s 21 years old now.”
Corbin, 72, said he knew the Hollister factory would be the building where he would finish out his life and career, so he had it built to be big enough to accomplish the level of design and manufacturing he wanted.
“Having a cafe is a comfort zone for riders and it’s also a cafeteria for our people,” he said. “It’s also a restaurant and people come here from Industrial Park Drive on a semi-regular basis.”
Though he determined where the cafe would be located within the building, Corbin said he hired a well-known diner designer whose name he couldn’t remember. Corbin said the designer asked him if he wanted the cafe to be quiet or noisy.
“For a restaurant you want quiet for when you go out in the evening to have dinner,” Corbin said. “But in a diner you want glass windows, a metal ceiling and hard floors because it’s all about lunch time and it’s more exciting. So he designed it to make noise.”
The 1950s burger joint atmosphere features hundreds of biker-related posters and photos, along with pastel colors and load of stainless steel.
“Our whole culture is motorcycles, so we just started putting up motorcycle paraphernalia on the walls,” Corbin said. “It’s kind of interesting to motorcycle riders to look at all these different things that mean something to them. It’s part of our history.”
Corbin said Wizard’s Cafe is also available for parties and meetings, but the main business really picks up during motorcycle rallies. Even though the Hollister City Council has yet to support a 2019 rally, he said there will be one at his facility, as there was this year.
“They’ll be in here shoulder to shoulder,” Corbin said, adding that those who also want to buy a custom-made seat, which can take up to four hours, will be able to relax in the cafe while using their devices or visiting with friends.
“It’s the total experience that counts,” he said.
Corbin admitted the cafe is all about the experience and not so much about profit. He said because it’s so far from downtown there’s not much local patronage. He said he made a decision before Wizard’s opened that guaranteed it would not be highly profitable.
“It’s hard to make a profit without liquor,” he said. “When I moved to Hollister I was offered a beer and wine license. I didn’t want to put that in here and mix it with riding motorcycles. I drink and I ride motorcycles, but I don’t drink and drive at the same time. Some people lose track and I didn’t want to be a part of that.”
He isn’t too concerned about promoting Wizard’s Cafe, either. There are mentions of it on Facebook and in emails, but most of his new customers come by word-of-mouth.
During the winter, Wizard’s Cafe is open 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, serving breakfast and lunch. Beginning in March, it will be open Monday through Saturday.