Kick-ass espresso and motorcycle lifestyle in Hamilton

By Emily Kertcher

Their backgrounds are varied and strange. Not one particular thing led them to this point, it gets hard to connect the dots but somehow Jeff Campagna and Tania LaCaria have turned what was once just 8 Barton Street into Steeltown Garage Co. A business that can be defined as a mixture of motorcycle gear, meets espresso bar, meets hang out spot. Where you can enjoy one or the other or both.  

After travelling for the past eight to nine years, and settling down in different countries and cultures, Hamilton was the spot for Jeff and Tania to come back and settle their roots. With them they brought along their inspiration and ideas to start their own business. Barton Street, known for its rough and tug ways was now going to be home for their new adventure. 

“We thought Hamilton, especially Barton Street could use something with a little bit of edge, but not too much edge that it wasn’t accessible for everyone”, explains Jeff.  

Jeff and Tania both see Steeltown and its concept as an ethos for what Barton Street is becoming. An industrialized city that is spawning a new culture. A new culture, not to replace the old, but for both of them to co-exist in a cool way.  

Integrating into the community is a long process and not something that can be done easily or accomplished quickly. Nonetheless, Jeff and Tania are positive that this is where they belong. 

“There’s a lot of friendly people that walk by here every day, whether they are going to and from local business here, or they are coming from the mission in the morning. They are all extremely friendly and positive people. Yeah some of them are down and out, and the city can really grind people down, but it’s amazing to get to know the street and area. I think we are integrating well,” says Jeff. 

The backlash from the community on some businesses down Barton, seems to be an unfair action towards the new comers to the city. Tania is a strong believer that having an open communication with the community could help dispel that.  

“Hamilton is welcoming to everyone, and we want to be welcoming to everyone. If you’re going to be upset with a business because they have offended you, you should start a conversation and talk about it. It’s not fair to condemn somebody who could be living their dream or trying something new. Hamilton should be creating businesses that are accessible and open and welcoming to everyone. If we start to feel that there is backlash, then we are ready to listen and we want to listen. We want everyone to feel welcome at Steeltown,” explains Tania. 

Inclusiveness being the backbone of the business, which ties into the vintage motorcycling scene and what it means for Jeff.  

“In the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s, motorcycling wasn’t just for old guys, or gangsters, it was for everyone. Man, woman, child. It didn’t matter, motorcycling was a very inclusive thing,” says Jeff. “That changed over the past 30 years, it became a very specialized thing. We want to go back to that culture” 

At Steeltown, any kind of biker or rider is welcomed. Anyone who is not a biker or rider is also welcomed, and not only is that Jeff and Tania’s objective but also exactly how they treat everyone that comes by the business.  

“It doesn’t really matter in the vintage biker community what you ride, it’s that you ride. No matter which motorcycle community you’re looking at, it is a very tight knit group. It’s really cool to be a part of a community like that. I think it can extend beyond that and apply to the whole of Hamilton,” says Tania. 

Looking towards the future, the Steeltown duo hope that the motorcycle community can pivot around their business and be a place for camaraderie and positivity in Hamilton. For Barton Street, they hope that it only benefits the community, allowing business to develop without displacing the people who call Barton Street home. 

“I think the future of steel town is like the past of steel town. It’s completely unknown. And that’s okay,” explains Tania. “We’ve always lived our lives spontaneously through our travels. Steeltown Garage Co. started out as a different kind of project and over time evolved to what it is now. I’m excited to imagine what it could evolve into in the future.”