Friday, December 6, 2019

A return to Sam Avellino's legendary Royal Enfield shop

Exterior of Royal Enfield's New England distributor.
Avellinos shop in Revere, Mass. was the  New England headquarters for Royal Enfield.
(Photo courtesy of Angel Bart)
A mystery photo from the archives of the Royal Enfield Owners Club UK recently gave a vivid look into the past when Angel Bart, daughter of Sam Avellino Jr., identified two of the young men on the right in Royal Enfield T-shirts as her father and her uncle Richard "Dicky" Avellino.

Readers of this blog stepped up to identify some of the Royal Enfield motorcycles in photo as especially rare models that place the time of the photo as circa 1963.

Photo of motorcycles and young men in Royal Enfield T-shirts.
The mystery photo from REOC archives. Sebastian "Sam" Avellino Jr. is third from left
and his brother Richard "Dicky" Avellino is at right. The young man at left was a friend
of theirs but who? And who is the older man at far left? Where was the photo taken?
(Photo from the archives of the REOC UK)
The Royal Enfield on the extreme right, labelled as an Interceptor, is likely a rare 700cc VAX Interceptor, first of the Interceptor line of powerful twin-cylinder motorcycles. The motorcycle at extreme left is a Royal Enfield Fury single, with the Big-Head motor. These could be 1961 or '62 motorcycles.

This was a critical era for Royal Enfield in the United States, as it emerged in 1960 from years of badging its motorcycles as Indians for sale through Indian motorcycle dealers and began to sell through its own outlets, such as Avellinos.

In the process it would introduce Americans to the mighty Interceptor, the parallel twin powerhouse designed for American highways. The Interceptor, produced through 1970 in England, is reborn today as the near look-alike (but thoroughly modern) INT650 from Royal Enfield of India.

But questions remain. Who are the other two people in the photo, and where was the photo taken?

I theorized that the location was inside the legendary Avellinos motorcycle shop in Revere, Mass. It seemed to make sense. The photo is crammed with Royal Enfield motorcycles, a banner and advertising material. All this could have existed in the Revere shop, since Angel's grandfather, Sam Avellino Sr., was the New England distributor for Royal Enfield.

And there are what look like shop display windows behind the young men.

But Angel didn't think that was correct. The building didn't look familiar to her. And she sent me a photo of the exterior of the shop (seen at the top of this article) that seems to show plate glass windows that don't match the mullioned windows behind the young men in the mystery photo.

Three men inside motorcycle shop.
From left are Sam Avellino Jr., Sam Avellino Sr. and Richard Avellino inside the well-stocked shop.
A Norton motorcycle leaks oil onto a newspaper at left center of the photo.
(Photo courtesy of Angel Bart)
A second photo she provided, of the inside of the shop, doesn't show anything matching the mystery photo either — but it is nevertheless precious as it shows her grandfather Sebastian "Sam" Avellino Sr., her father Sam Avellino Jr. and her uncle Richard Avellino.

And then Brian Downing came forward. Brian knew the shop well — he had been going there with his dad since he was seven years old. That would have been in the early 1960s!

Brian was kind enough to share photos he took of Angel's dad, Sam Avellino Jr., on a visit "some time in 2007." That's a critical date: the shop was torn down in 2008. Sam Junior passed away in 2014.

Man standing against work bench in motorcycle shop.
Sam Avellino Jr. with Royal Enfield motor in the shop in 2007.
(Brian Downing Photo)
Like Angel, Brian gave me permission to use the photos here. Together, Angel's photos and Brian's will hopefully remind Royal Enfield enthusiasts of the Avellinos' contributions to Royal Enfield history in the northeast corner of the United States, back in the glory days.

Readers, if these photos awaken memories for you, please share them with us in the Comments section below.

Cluttered bulletin board in motorcycle shop.
Photos of motorcycles, clippings, and religious cards mingle on a shop bulletin board.
(Brian Downing Photo)

Royal Enfield motorcycles on floor of Avellino shop in 2007.
Royal Enfield motorcycles, antiques by 2007, crowd floor of the shop.
(Brian Downing Photo)

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the follow up and the new photos. I love to see these old time worn shops... the walls covered with all sorts of "stuff" and the floors covered with "piles in the aisles". All the old tools and knickknacks accumulated over years and years, each with a history and story to tell! What a shame these classic time capsules of yesteryear are slowly going the way of the buffalo. At least we have these pictures to remind us of simpler times.
    Thanks again.

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  2. Great shop to bad they're gone now.

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  3. Nice article! Nothing like an old motorcycle shop!

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  4. Let's see. advertising with the address of the shop, neat shorts to show who they were… I guess a stand at an exhibition.
    If it were the shop, then a banner inside with the address would be a bit pointless?
    So I am going for a stand they had at an exhibition or show somewhere, the shot being taken at that angle to possibly exclude a rival's stand next to them.

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  5. I meant 'shirts' not 'shorts' LOL!

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