By Kristin Lewis, Sully Hometown Press

2013_sully_speed_co Early in the summer of 2012, Jon Rankin (left in photo) and Derrick Zimmerman of Sully took the first steps to starting their lifelong dream – owning altnd operating their own bike shop. photo

Sully Speed Co. is now a reality. Rankin and Zimmerman are renting garage space from Tim Dunsbergen on West 4th Street in the Sully Business Park and work on motorcycles in the evenings and on Saturdays.

Sully Speed Co.’s main focus is the fabrication and restoration of motorcycles. They will also service, fix, and sell bikes, but they have a passion for taking old motorcycles and putting them back on the road again. Rankin explained, “I think what sets us apart is that we see every old motorcycle as a piece of history, as a piece of art. We see beauty in these bikes and we have a desire to put them back on the road where they belong, sometimes better than they ever were.”

The pair has been friends for years – they rode the bus together starting when Zimmerman was in kindergarten and Rankin was a first grader at Lynnville-Sully School. The boys tinkered with things together from the beginning, “My dad has a shop in Galesburg and would work on anything. So I grew up on it; that’s how I caught the sickness,” Zimmerman shared.

Rankin added, “My dad had motorcycles which interested me, but growing up, I hung out with Zimmy in his dad’s shop. So that’s where I caught on.” Since they were young, both boys would talk about having their own businesses. Zimmerman’s dream was to restore hot rods and Rankin was going to have a motorcycle shop. But in the last couple of years they decided, “Why not do it together?” And the idea of Sully Speed Co. was born, except, it wasn’t going to be in Sully. Jon and his wife, Shelly, had been living in Des Moines and Jon didn’t really see them leaving the city, “When we would talk about this dream, I wanted to stay in Des Moines and start something downtown.” When the dream would become the topic of conversation, all kinds of options were thrown around. The two weren’t sure where, when, or how their shop would come to be, they just knew they’d do something someday!

Rankin shared, “One day, we just decided that we aren’t getting any younger, so we took a leap.” So at the age of 27, they started planning and Sully seemed to be an opportune place. The Rankins moved back to town the summer of 2012. Zimmerman and his wife, Annette, had already moved back to the area from Des Moines around a year ago.

A space was found and a name was chosen, Sully Speed Co. Zimmerman and Rankin both have a huge appreciation for the speed shops of the 1950s and 1960s. They decided to put Sully in the name because, as Zimmerman said, “It’s in our roots, and we hope to be able to showcase the town.”

“Because we are planning on getting big!” Rankin added. The pair knows they have a lot of work ahead of them and hope to someday be nationally recognized for their custom-built motorcycles. They are already making connections with people in the business and will work to get their bikes featured on blogs specifically showcasing custom motorcycles. Awareness of this new business is spreading by word of mouth and also by the exposure of their own Facebook page.

Sully Speed Co. is currently working on their first motorcycle restoration: A 1981 Suzuki GS750. The bike belongs to Jeff Van Wyk and was pulled out of an old barn. Because space is limited, they are subletting the engine work, but do almost everything else in their shop.

The big picture? The guys can respond without hesitating: “This would be our job. We wouldn’t have to work on this only in the evenings.” They would also like to be able to move into a bigger space, allowing them to do all the work themselves, and, someday, be able to expand to working on and restoring hot rods. Ultimately, they want to keep the business in Sully and have a showcase of their work in Des Moines. So far, they are happy with their choice of location. “We even got pie from the chamber! The city has been very welcoming.” They’ve also been working closely with Craig Maasdam from Fast Trax. “We’ve worked with him on a couple of projects. We appreciate that he doesn’t see us as a threat but more of a partner, and we’ll be able to help each other. He doesn’t always have time to fix the old stuff, so we’ve been working together.”

While talking to Zimmerman and Rankin, it’s clear that this isn’t just a childhood dream. It’s a goal for their future. Rankin summed it up best, “We just really love the vintage/hotrod lifestyle—when America was truly great and produced a product to take pride in. We are equally passionate about motorcycles and the freedom they give you. We feel we have a vision for motorcycles that the world has yet to see. We build cafe racers, bobbers, brats, choppers, scramblers, restorations, and more, but we feel we have a vision for these motorcycles that is different than what people are used to. We see it big, and if nothing else, we just love what we do and we want to share it with as many people as we can.”