The Shop Club: A ‘Country Club for Gearheads’

Mar 9, 2017, 5:20 PM | Updated: Mar 10, 2017, 12:29 pm

Shop Club...

Matt Bell owns The Shop Club. (Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

Ross and Rachel had Central Perk. Brenda and Dylan had the Peach Pit. And now Seattle car and motorcycle geeks will have The Shop Club, which owner Matt Bell is calling a “country club for gear heads.”

Expected to open in SODO in April, The Shop Club will be a 36,500-square-foot car club for private members. It includes an Ethan Stowell restaurant called Derby that’s open to the public.

“Inside the warehouse, we have a restoration shop with a skilled metal worker, lifts that are open to members and then we have indoor wash bays and detail facilities so you can come inside and wash your car,” Bell said. “If you’re renting a storage space you can leave [your car] there at the shop; secured, climate controlled storage for members to store cars there as well.

“They can either pay people to do the work for them, you can do the work yourself or have somebody help you do it and teach you how to do it,” he said. “There’s nothing really available like that for the people into cars and motorcycles. So that’s one of the big drivers for me to create this originally; me wanting to work on my own cars, but not knowing how to do it. Having the tools and the facility to do it in.”

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Members also have access to meeting rooms and workspace, a virtual reality driving simulator and a speakeasy card room that you get to through a Scooby Doo-esque rotating bookshelf.

The Shop Club

When I was presented with this story, it came with a question: is Seattle changing into a place so moneyed by tech, that there is now a market for a club where Ferrari owners will store their cars?

Bell insists that it’s not just for the elite.

“The tagline we have is ‘Country Club for Gearheads’ because it is SODO,” he said. “It is industrial, we are definitely wanting to be available for a wide audience. They’ll be literally everything from a Ferrari to a Volkswagen bug. And we love that because, at the end of the day, the guy who loves the Ferrari and the guy who has the Volkswagon bug have essentially the same car passion, just maybe slightly different means.”

Until this venture, Bell has always been a tech executive. But he hung up his CEO hat to start a business that centers on his favorite thing: cars.

“I have mostly cars from the ’60s,” Bell said. “One of the shows I watched growing up was ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ and I always wanted a ’68 Charger, so I got one of those. When I had my third daughter I had to purchase a minivan. So in order to feel cool about that, I found an old convertible that would fit three car seats across the back, I have a ’63 Impala convertible. When I was in high school I always wanted a ’68 Bronco, so I was fortunate enough to find one of those recently. I’ve had an AC Cobra replica. I’ve had a ’49 Chevy pickup truck. I had a 1970 Javelin.”

“The big limiting factor in my car collection has always been space and the fact that I didn’t have anywhere to put them,” he said. “So The Shop kind of opens up my possibilities for expanding my car collection.”

Since living in the city doesn’t always come with a parking spot, Bell hopes people will park their cars at The Shop Club. Initiation to be a club member is $500, although that is being waived if you sign up for a year membership now. Dues are $150 a month and it’s $200 month to store your car.

“That’s really reasonable because downtown parking is $350,” Bell said. “So what you get on top of that with the club and the other amenities with discounted services, how-to classes and access to all the equipment. It’s designed to be a very affordable, approachable price point.”

Bell wants a place where car and motorcycle lovers can come to eat, drink and form a community.

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The Shop Club: A ‘Country Club for Gearheads’