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It Happens Here: Allston Motorcycle Designer Shatters Gender Stereotypes

ALLSTON (CBS) - Named after Harvard educated painter, Washington Allston, this is one of Boston's youngest neighborhoods. Seventy-percent of residents are between the ages of 18 and 34. It's also a hot spot for music. Allston is home to several small concert venues and music recording studios.

madhouse motors

But the sound of starting a motorcycle is music on Rugg Road. That's where you'll find Madhouse Motors. It's a motorcycle shop with an unexpected boss, the owner and mechanic is a 28-year-old woman, J. Shia.

"There has been times when I have answered the phone and tried to talk to a customer. They think I'm the secretary," she laughed.

But this young entrepreneur is no secretary. She's a master mechanic, welder and designer. All skills that started at a young age when tools were her toys.

J. Shia
J. Shia with one of her motorcycles at Madhouse Motors. (WBZ-TV)

"Instead of me having Legos or whatever kids have, I was just always around bikes to take apart," she told WBZ-TV.

She can repair, remake or rebuild almost any bike, as long as it's not run by a computer. But she also has a fine art degree and the bikes are her canvas.

"I get a little bored doing tire changes, I'd rather come to work and create art and kind of invigorate myself, making something that can move, but is also beautiful," she said.

Shia and her team have created a couple of unique bikes using some unusual items. A 1957 Indian has an old police light for a headlight, the foot rests are made of an old Brannock device (the metal foot measuring devices you use to buy shoes for kids), and the tail light is made out of an antique egg slicer.

brannock device
A foot rests made of an old Brannock device. (WBZ-TV)

"There are a lot of bike shows where they present bikes as art pieces," she explained. She's just back from a show in Oregon where the Indian won best in show.

Her talent is now being recognized nationally and she even caught the attention of a Hollywood producer who hired her to build bikes for the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters.

"We built two identical bikes that Chris Hemsworth wound up riding. That was really fun. It was a lot of work though," Shia said, recalling working around the clock to finish the project in just eight weeks.

Those long nights took time away from what really motivates her, being a mom to 9-year-old Audai, who she has served as guardian for since he was a newborn and she was just 19.

"It fueled the first to work harder, couldn't slack, couldn't skip out on anything," she said.

It is work she loves, but it's the results that matter most to her.

"My life goal is for people to see the bike and say, 'Wow, that's a cool bike,' instead of 'That's a cool bike built by a girl,'" she said.

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