STURGIS | Proceeds from the sale of a special blend of coffee made by Sturgis Coffee Co. during the Sturgis motorcycle rally will help seek a cure for a form of blood cancer that ended the life of motorcycle customizer Arlen Ness.
Ness, 79, died on March 22 of this year of complications of multiple myeloma. His family, including wife Beverly and sons Cory and grandson Zach, continue the custom motorcycle and accessories business that Arlen and Bev pioneered in the 1970s.
“Arlen truly is the ‘Godfather’ of the custom bike movement,” said then-Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall Of Fame executive director Myrick Robbins, in a 2016 ultimatemotorcycling.com story on Ness’s selection as the Hall of Fame’s first Lifetime Achievement award. Ness was also inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame in 1992.
“No one has done more to influence the look of what a custom motorcycle is,” Robbins said.
According to Ness’s biography. He was originally an automotive hot-rodder in California, but kept his eye on motorcycles.
One day in the mid-1960s, Ness bought a used Harley-Davidson Knucklehead with $300 saved up from bowling league winnings.
Arlen honed his customizing skills over and over on the Harley, eventually going into the business when he and his wife Beverly opened up their first store in 1970.
His bike designs and accessories have become the standard in the custom industry and Arlen Ness was and remains a fixture at the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Ness battled multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, for five years. The disease eventually progressed to the point that Ness was unable to attend the 2018 Sturgis rally.
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Family friend Julie Olson, formerly of the Bay Area of California, but now living in Spearfish, came up with the idea for a commemorative coffee honoring Ness for Sturgis Coffee Co. owner Anna Rowett, combining Rowett’s Bliss blend with Ness’ name in a play on words.
Bliss is a nice blend that a lot of people like,” said Rowett, taking the time to talk from a busy morning of serving coffee at her Lazelle Street Store.
“We’re creating the product and giving a portion of the proceeds back to them,” she said referring to the Ness family.
Their “Blissful-Ness" blend is offered in a commemorative box for $40, or in a resealable bag for $15.95.
Olson, who has been helping Rowett in a rebranding of the Coffee Co., said the Blissful-Ness name fits in with Arlen Ness’ uses of his own last name in branding motorcycle accessories.
“I ran it by the family and (Ness’ widow) Bev loved it. She loves coffee,” Olson said. “We went for it.”
Olson said this week at the rally has been difficult in many ways for the Ness family, coming just a few months after Arlen's passing.
"He was just such a fabulous role model for so many of us over the years,” Olson said. "We were blessed to learn from him and teach other people, not only in the industry but the family.”