When Justin Grow saw members of the Free Riders Independent Motorcycle Club pull up outside his restaurant earlier this week, he assumed they were just stopping by to say hi.
Instead, the 501(c)(3) charity organization presented Grow, who co-owns Dominic’s Bar and Grille in Monrovia with William Wise Jr., with a check.
“Justin has supported this club for a very long time,” said Happy Harrington, a member of the Free Riders. “We thought that we could do something to support him as he’s supported us over the years.”
Free Riders Independent MC supports other groups and individuals and raises money through fundraisers. They often hold events at Dominic’s.
“Our main purpose is to ride together as brothers, be a club as brothers and to raise money to help the community,” said Larry “Norton” McIntyre, also known as master of coin or treasurer.
Grow said owning a restaurant is a lot of hard work under normal circumstances, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been crippling.
While the donation amount will stay between Grow and the club, Grow said it was "very generous."
“Because of people like the Free Riders … we might make it through,” he said. “We’re a big family here … We like to be part of the community. We try to do as many events — I mean, I never turn down anything.”
Events and fundraisers are hosted at the restaurant and Grow said they also make donations to charities in the community.
Grow said being presented with the check was overwhelming and also made special note of a woman named Cristi Franklin, of the band Poverty Ridge, who is an organizer on a GoFundMe page for the restaurant.
“They’re like family to us as well and they set up a GoFundMe, which I think is what kicked a lot of this off,” he said. “It’s just those kind of things that just make you feel really good because you know that people feel the same way about you that you feel about them.”
Grow said the restaurant has lost about 60 to 65 percent of its business during this time and that they thrive on events.
“For the first few weeks, I thought, OK, we might be alright ... but the more this has gone on the more it’s become clear to me that the longer this goes the less chance I have of staying open,” he said.
Grow said the check, the GoFundMe and other donations will help with things like paying bills for the restaurant.
Club member Wayne “Crabby Daddy” Harris said Grow never says no to an event or a special request and always helps the community.
“So it wasn’t hard for us to say, ‘hey, let's give him a hand,’” Harris said.
Grow said Free Riders Independent MC helps people “all the time, and so this is not like one of these, you know, we’re just going to try to show off while something’s going down.”
It’s very satisfying to be able to help the community, said club vice president Jay “Fuse” Ramella.
“It makes you feel good inside,” he said.
Club President Jimmy “Juke” Boxall said giving to the community also helps get them out of the stigma of being a motorcycle club, which can get a bad rap based on what people see on TV or in movies.
“So, it’s satisfying in that way also because we’re not like that,” he said.
Harris said he hopes the club can start a trend in the community by offering help.
“Let's make an example for somebody else,” he said. “Maybe somebody will take notice and say, ‘hey, we could do the same thing.’”