On the corner of Sepviva and Fletcher lies a shop that is a fitting emblem in modern day Fishtown. Liberty Vintage is more than just a garage and sanctuary for antique motorcycles and cars, it is also a gallery and home to some of Adam Cramer’s most prized possessions.
“Everything I own and love is in here,” said Cramer, 45 of Fishtown. “I never want to sell any of it because it’s my identity.”
From the 1960s bubble helicopter hanging from the ceiling that he swindled from a millionaire’s aviation center, to a series of rare toy cars designed for children, Cramer bases everything he owns in his Philadelphia roots.
Since growing up in Philadelphia, he has tried to live in nearly 30 different states and abroad, due to his extensive knowledge of European bikes, but always found himself coming back to his hometown.
“I lived in Italy and I lived in Paris,” Cramer said. “I always ended up getting deported and it was a blast, but Philadelphia is where I belong. This is where I have all my connections.”
Cramer’s decision to stay in Philadelphia has come with great opportunity.
In the summer of 2013, Discovery channel launched a new reality show, “Philly Throttle,” that focused on Cramer and his small crew as they turn rusted old motorcycles into works of art while struggling to please the individual requests of each customer.
“I’m not a businessman,” he said. “I am a total con-artist and that’s what I have to be.”
Cramer’s inkling of reality show fame has not helped him with expenses, however.
“I like to say that if you’re not lazy, you can always make a dime in Philly,” Cramer said. “It’s not about the money though. I love what I do and that’s all that matters because I have this shop and if I need to, I can just sleep in here.”
https://vimeo.com/108798678]In a way, Cramer, along with his 10-year-old son, Max, and his wife will actually be living in part of the shop.
Cramer’s wife, Keiko Tsuruta Cramer, is an architect and turning the neighboring portion of the building into their home.
“We are having the wall sealed up and we’re going to move everything in and make it our new home so that I’m right next door all of the time,” Cramer said.
Having all aspects of his life in one building is not Cramer’s only intention. He hopes to turn half of the shop into a bar, with an opening to a beer garden in the backyard.
“I’ve been in contact with the zoning committees to make this happen,” he said. “I also want to turn the other half into a museum so everyone can see my collections.”
Cramer loves having people stop into Liberty Vintage to look around and ask questions. Additionally, he uses every First Friday as a way to lure people in by showcasing fire breathers, motorcycle demonstrations and aerial artists hanging from the ceiling.
Motorcycles have been a part of Cramer’s life ever since his childhood and his Liberty Vintage shop is the epitome of his loving relationship he has with bikes.
“It’s the only thing that’s ever made sense,” he said. “For me, it has always been about motorcycles… and cigarettes.”
– Text, photo and video by Meredith D. Thomas and Indira Jimenez.