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Minnesota dealer reflects on 40-year run

By Kate Swanson

Bristow retires as Mies Outland takes control of lines

On June 6, 1976, Mike Bristow opened Bristow’s Kawasaki & Polaris in central Minnesota. The dealership has been in business for more than 40 years, surviving economic recessions and numerous buying trends. Most recently, Bristow saw that his employees had to adapt to today’s customers by becoming more responsive and spontaneous.

“Basically as times got tougher, we just had to work harder, and work harder to take care of the customer more than ever. Techniques-wise, you don’t have control over the weather. … You always have to continue to look ahead and continue to try and make things work,” Bristow said.

Today’s customers shop on different days than previous generations did, and learn about the product online first, Bristow said. Also, individual demand has changed. While at one point the store saw record traffic on Saturdays, it has seen stronger Thursday/Friday sales in recent years and increased shopping on Sundays. Bristow said that in today’s market, the quickest impact on the customer is made using the internet, rather than via the newspaper.

“It’s so much different than it used to be. We rarely sell two of the exact item in the same day,” said Bristow, who used to sell the same unit or apparel to groups at a time. “The demand has changed so much, and people are much more individual. As a matter of fact, right now, you might have 80 different models from one manufacturer just because there’s two-year inventory sitting around.”

And it’s dealing with those potential flooring headaches that Bristow won’t miss. After 40 years and 3 days in the industry, Bristow announced his retirement at the beginning of June. “Quite honestly, I have no structured plans. I just want to spend time with my wife and family,” the 65-year-old Bristow said. He has three sons, all of whom grew up in the business through their mid-20s.

“Families of these businesses experience the stresses and the work ethic. It’s a difficult thing to have to do and tell your kids that ‘Hey, I have to make a living today.’ Those are the choices that you get as a businessperson. Business people sacrifice a lot, and I just want to give my family back some of my time,” Bristow said.

Mies Outland, which took over operations as of July, wholly acquired Bristow’s Kawasaki & Polaris. Bristow could not comment on whether or not Mies will continue the Kawasaki line, but said that Mies had acquired all lines. “We hope that they would take care of our existing customers,” he added.

Bristow had a few final words for all the supporters of his dealership and the people he has met over the course of his career: “I would like to thank all of my customers for sticking with us throughout the years, through thick and thin, tough times and good times. I have enjoyed working with all of my customers. It’s hard for me to walk away, but it’s a chapter in my life where I need to enjoy my family now.”

 

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