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State dealer meeting mixes art, business

By Kate Swanson

North Carolina dealer association sees strong growth

Combining art with business proved to be an ideal match for the North Carolina Motorcycle Dealers Association. At their annual Winter Meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina dealers gathered in impressive numbers for the one-night stay. 

A Saturday night reception at the Motorcycle. Art. Design. (M.A.D.) exhibit at the GreenHill Center for NC Art in downtown Greensboro allowed for prime networking opportunities, not to mention time to view some fantastic bikes. The Leather & Lace party at the GreenHill gallery was well attended and hosted both NCMDA members and enthusiasts alike. The exhibit features a collection of 23 eclectic American, European and Japanese bikes dating from 1902 through present day. Attendees were served appetizers and were encouraged to visit the lifestyle section’s Biker Bar sponsored by Maker’s Mark, which included a graffiti wall for patrons to sign. 

“Combining the visual art installation, along with the cultural elements makes for a really well-rounded exhibition. As a visual arts organization we celebrate art,” said Laura Way, GreenHill’s executive director. “In M.A.D., we expanded what one typically thinks of as art to incorporate the incredible design and innovation of the motorcycle.”

Mark Hendrix, general manager of Ray Price Harley-Davidson in Raleigh, has seen plenty of interesting bikes in his lifetime, but the impressive exhibit and the gallery’s dedication to showing the motorcycling culture offered some new takes.

“The gallery was really amazing because even though we’re all motorcycle people, there was something in there for each of us that we hadn’t seen. There was a bike in there that I hadn’t seen in real life,” Hendrix said. “It was so eclectic, the difference in the motorcycles was just awesome.”

The M.A.D. exhibit will continue running at the gallery through June 8 and an admission fee of $8 a person is charged for visitors who are 16 years and older. Way said GreenHill welcomes groups who wish to make an event or even ride out to the gallery. “If we know you are coming in advance, we will give you a tour or help you create a Greensboro experience for your group. We want people to make the most of their visit,” she added. 

Festivities continued into Sunday morning, kicking off with a general NCMDA meeting led by president Chris Brewer, owner of Brewer Cycles. Brewer was proud to welcome several new dealerships to the NCMDA to the winter meeting, including Carolina V-Twin (Greenville), Eurosport Asheville, Estridge Motorsports (Matthews), Full Throttle Powersports, Inc. (Lowell), Jim’s Motorcycle Sales (Johnson City, Tennessee) and Sport Durst Power Sports (Durham).

The group’s membership grew this year, as Brewer said that dealers in the state are beginning to see the importance of joining the association. “We had more people join this year than we have had in a long time. There is strength in numbers. People are seeing more of a need for it,” Brewer said.

The NCMDA has a history for high dealer participation at its meetings, and this year’s discussions among those dealers were no exception. Several legislative bills being processed gained interest during the meeting, most notably the proposed tariff on European bikes, which American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) CEO Rob Dingman opposed at a hearing in Washington, D.C., in February. The NCMDA agreed a tariff would negatively effect the industry, not only with European bikes, but eventually they believed it would grow to include others. “If European bikes are the pick today, who’s to say Honda or Harley won’t be next?” one dealer voiced. 

North Carolina is one of the few states that don’t require off-road vehicle titling, which has an effect on business for the state’s dealers competing with dealerships in neighboring states. Brewer gave an update on the association’s efforts to pass a state bill that would require the registering and titling of off-road vehicles in North Carolina. When asked, all in attendance unanimously agreed to support the bill.

While flu season took a toll on the winter meeting’s in-person attendance, Brewer is hopeful that more dealer and members will attend in the future. “[These meetings] are really important. I asked a dealer, ‘What is it going to take to get all the dealers to participate?’ and he said, ‘I don’t understand why not, I just wrote down two things that I’ve learned that affects me in such a huge way. It’s so worth it.’ The guys who sit here talking, they learn so much. How would you learn if you didn’t come to a meeting?”

Hendrix said he values his NCMDA membership and encourages others to join. The association has members that range from single-line to multi-line franchise dealerships, to independent service shops. “If we’re going to have more success as dealers, we have to grow the industry; we have to grow the sport of motorcycling,” Hendrix said. “I’m never going to give up on that idea that a rising tide raises all ships, and I feel like our industry should operate that way.

“I love coming to venues like this because we get to see the dealers in a different environment. We’re not competing today; we’re solving problems. That’s really important to the industry, and the dealerships that don’t participate lose out on that.” 

 

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