A self-described workaholic who came from a family of machinists, welders and hot-rodders, Jason Mook enlisted in the U.S. Marines at age 17, and spent a decade as a reconnaissance specialist in Japan, Africa, Europe and the Philippines before becoming an instructor at Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va.
At one point in his life, Mook, now 46, was working as a police officer on a SWAT team, owned a motorcycle shop, and disappeared for weeks at a time on “undisclosed trips” to Iraq and Afghanistan in service to the U.S. government.
Those foreign forays left him with enough “seed money” to kick-start his own custom motorcycle business which he moved from Virginia to Charleston S.C. But a severe motorcycle accident in May 2014, left him hobbled and changed his life. By August of that year, he was able to get back on a bike, which he rode directly to the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Succinctly, Mook fell in love with the Black Hills and when he mentioned to a friend that he was considering a move, his friend called him on it and told Mook he’d help him with work. By February 2015, he was in the midst of six trips totaling 25,000 miles, pulling a 33-foot trailer filled with his belongings between Charleston and the Black Hills.
In May, Mook carried on his transformation by opening Deadwood Custom Cycles at 10 Lee St., and getting engaged in the same month. His bride-to-be is Charlie Struble, a Deadwood city commissioner and marketing guru and occasional bartender at Deadwood’s infamous Saloon No. 10.
We sat down with Mook and asked him about his life of transition, his relocation to Deadwood, and his dreams for the future.
Q: When did you open Deadwood Custom Cycles and why pick this location?
A: I’ve always loved this little town of Deadwood, so much that I got a tattoo of the “Deadman’s Hand” on my arm. I always believed a motorcycle shop could make it in Deadwood because it’s so centrally located and it’s a touristy town. I’m trying to utilize two decades of shop experience to provide a full-service, complete and total aftermarket motorcycle shop because I saw the need, with so many locals who ride and so many tourists who come here in the summer and Deadwood is business friendly and supportive.
Q: What do you enjoy most about motorcycles and what do you find rewarding about customization work?
A: I’ve been obsessed with motorcycles since I was a little kid watching an old bearded guy riding a ‘70s FLH Shovelhead down the road. I had a lot of bikes that were so old I couldn’t pay people to fix them, so I spent many an afternoon working on an Ironhead Sportster with the frame sitting on a milk crate. Today, we do repairs, oil changes, fabrication, new tires; seriously we do it all. And there are two things I absolutely love – first, a customer comes in and wants something, but they don’t know what they actually want. I help them figure that out. Secondly, the look on that customer’s face when you unveil it or they take their first ride. Sometimes their face is just glowing when they get back. That’s the most gratifying part.
Q: What’s been your greatest challenge and what makes your shop different?
A: The greatest challenge with this job is the 103-year-old building. It was never designed to be a motorcycle shop. We’ve done a build-out, put in some doors, and made it a functioning shop. It’s a historic building in a historic town. What makes us different is our experience and how we treat customers whether they’re buying a t-shirt or having a full frame-up custom. We shoot for perfection on every job. And, our shop is engaged in the community, with an indoor and outdoor wine and beer bar. We’re trying to create a place for motorcycle people to come, feel welcome and hang out.
Q: Tell me something about yourself that few people know?
A: My left leg is still broken as the result of my motorcycle accident in 2014. I walk around every day with a broken left leg.
Q: In a perfect world, where will you and your business be a decade from now?
A: A decade from now we will have expanded our business to include a rental fleet, offering a turn-key vacation package where people can fly into the Black Hills, stay in Deadwood, and ride one of our rental bikes through the Hills for a few days. And, I’ll be happily married to Charlie and we’ll build our dream house.