It’s been one hell of a ride and it’s far from over. Paul Teutul Sr. has spent over 50 years building bikes and bending metal. He started building bikes in his senior year of high school and never really stopped. Paul came from an extremely abusive household where you’d catch a beating because you looked like you might do something. Worse than getting beat was watching your little sister get dragged across the floor, knowing you couldn’t help. Bikes and animals were the two things that brought him comfort in that life of hell.
Paul got out the first chance he could and joined the Merchant Marines, delivering ammunition overseas. Once he returned, he got married and started a family. It was then he knew that he had to find another way to take care of the people he loved. He bought an old truck and a welder and started Paul’s Welding. He took any and every job he could. Most of the time, he worked seven days a week building his company. As time passed, the hard work paid off and the company grew. Paul knew he needed a bigger name, so he started Orange County Iron Works, which is now owned and operated by his son Dan.
As hard as he worked, Paul still found time to build a bike here and there. But unfortunately, with the increased pressure came increased drinking. Senior would like to share those stories, but there are not enough pages to tell them all. After losing his business partner, his uncle and his best friend to alcoholism, he knew he wouldn’t be far behind if things didn’t change. He made a decision to live.
On January 7th, 1985, Paul decided not to drink, just for a day. That day became every day for the last 38 years. When he became sober, he had a one-year-old daughter and three sons, aged 9, 6 and 4. Paul is grateful to have been able to take his kids fishing, snowmobiling and to play their favorite family game, tennis. Paul knows one thing for sure—if he had not stopped drinking, he would not be alive today. “I would have missed out on watching my kids grow up and become the amazing people they are today,” he says.
Life got really crazy when a call came in from a producer that saw one of Paul’s bikes on the cover of a magazine along with a picture of Paul that fit the archetype they were looking for. The producer asked Paul if he would do a pilot episode for a reality TV show. They were looking for an East Coast personality similar to West Coast Choppers’ Jesse James.
He hung up not having a clue what this meant. As a 54-year-old blue collar guy running a steel shop, being on TV was not something that ever crossed his mind. He only had a little bike shop in the basement of his steel shop. What would people think? What if he sounded stupid? Would it affect his business? The rest, as they say, is history. After the first episode of American Chopper aired, he thought for sure he was ruined, but the ratings said otherwise. The offers to do more shows came in, and the public could not get enough.
While there were many great times during their 20 years of filming, there was also heartache. It meant filming 240 hours for each episode, only to find out that the final cut did not always paint him in the most flattering light. Imagine a camera following you for 240 hours of your everyday life and taking your worst moments and stringing them together in any order that sells. “Now let’s be clear,” Paul says, “I am by no means an angel. I gave them plenty of content. I was and still am an old school guy that knows how to get a job done, but when it came to communication, that toolbox was pretty empty.”
Paul still considers it a privilege to have had such an amazing opportunity and is grateful to Discovery for all they did over the years. Everyone asks, “What is Paul Teutul Sr. doing now?” His answer is simple, “building bikes.” He also wanted to keep OCC as a fun and exciting brand. A few years back, he met his business partner Keith Overton. Together, they have taken all of the bikes and memorabilia collected over 30 years and created a museum, restaurant and entertainment space all in one.
Paul is very proud of the OCC Roadhouse & Museum in St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida. It is the final resting place for 14 of his most iconic bikes that were actually built on American Chopper. OCC Roadhouse is now home to his personal memorabilia, most of which has never been seen before because it wasn’t featured on the show. The restaurant is more than just your ordinary bar and restaurant, although the food is amazing. Paul knows because he eats there a couple of times a week, and when it comes to food, he is a hard guy to please.
The OCC Roadhouse has over 11-thousand square feet of indoor restaurant space. It is attached to a 25-thousand square foot, open-air pavilion that hosts events every night of the week, including some of the best bands in Florida, the largest weekly cornhole tournament in the state, family night and karaoke, and country line dancing with a live band. However, Paul’s favorite aspect of the OCC Roadhouse is that they are the largest pet-friendly venue in all of Florida.
OCC Roadhouse shares a 10-acre campus with Bert’s Barracuda Harley Davidson Dealership, one of the largest Harley stores in Florida. Behind the Harley dealership is Paul’s newest shop where he’s always building 4-5 bikes at a time and loving it. No drama, just builds. The OCC brand is still alive and well, and while he is supposed to be enjoying semi-retirement, he can’t stop building bikes. When you love what you do,, it’s not work.
Despite his semi-retirement, Paul says that his life is still a crazy ride, and that he is just going to hold on and enjoy it. He loves Florida and plans on continuing the growth of the Orange County Choppers brand there.
One thing that has stayed constant in Paul’s life is his love of animals. Paul and his wife Joannie have a rescue farm that includes cows, horses, pigs, dogs and cats. They also continue to run the Hudson Valley SPCA in New Windsor, New York.