ALASKA FUN AND SPORT CENTER
1817 College Road
Fairbanks, AK 99709
Bill and Gabriele Larry
Larry founded the large dealership at its present location in 1959. Carries Yamaha (except PWC or jet boats) and Kawasaki (except jet boats), plus Rokon two-wheel-drive motorcycles, which are made in New Hampshire and store fuel in the wheels. Largest-selling segment is ATV. Alaska Fun and Sport Center is a Kawasaki Ichiban dealer. 17 employees.
Larry’s greatest concern is noise, particularly with two-stroke engines. “We are trying to push for quieter-tuned exhausts,” he says.
The hot ATVs at Alaska Fun and Sport Center include the Kawasaki Brute Force 750 and the Yamaha Grizzly 660. “We also sell a ton of Cat Tracks that go on four-wheelers and enable ATVs to be ridden over the ‘tundra heads.’ These overgrown tussocks are all over the place and are really hard to ride over with wheels.” The best-selling snowmachines (only tourists call them ‘snowmobiles’) include Yamaha’s RS Venture and Bravo long track-”we sell lots of those, and dealerships in the Lower 48 don’t even get them.” On two wheels, superbikes are hot-like the Kawasaki 636 and ZX-10, and the Yamaha R6 and R1, as are cruisers. The Fun and Sport Center carries 15 brands of helmets, but not Arai. “We used to, but now Arai wants you to place such a big order.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Larry says his clientele span all ages, and “lots of women have moved back into powersports.” Another trend he has spotted: Customers taking advantage of the OEMs’ financing programs. “They like the low-interest specials.”
Larry says there are no powersports issues in Alaska that he knows of, “and we will really fight them if they appear. Most of the senators are my friends.” Would he say that Alaska is an independent state? “Very much so. The ‘outside people’ in states like Connecticut and California try to run us.” Alaskans don’t listen to that.
PARTS AND SERVICE
There are eight staffers in the service department, and all are cross-trained on the two marques. “We’re a Bronze Five-Star service center for Yamaha, and very few dealerships can say that,” notes Larry. “I’m also Five-Star trained, so I can walk right into the service department and not believe a bunch of baloney. Some dealers never even see their service department.” He adds that the dealership doesn’t have time to work on brands other than the ones it sells.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Alaska Fun and Sport Center advertises in the newspaper and on radio and TV. “We have an open house each year, and this week we’ll have a big snowmachine test drive,” says Larry. The dealership has been in existence for 46 years and is next to a four-lane highway, and an always-lighted awning covers snowmachines and motorcycles “so anyone driving by at night can look in.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
Larry has been the principal of his Kawasaki franchise longer than any dealer in the United States. “The other one is Joe Nicolai in Hawaii, and we’ve been friends for years,” he notes. “But I wouldn’t have advice for anybody else-because they’re my competition,” he says, laughing.
— Julie Filatoff
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