2115 Carriage Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502
Marv Reiner, Vicki and Dale Gray
14,000-sq.-ft. dealership founded in 1965; moved from the small town of Aberdeen eight years ago, when the Grays became involved. Exclusively Honda — it’s the only PowerHouse dealer in Washington state. Carries the full line except Aquatrax personal watercraft. “We just don’t have the room for PWC,” says Vicki Gray. Largest-selling segment consists of off-road vehicles; the number-one ATV dealership in the state of Washington. 24 employees.
Gray’s greatest concern is safety, particularly age-related ATV issues. “We want to make sure that parents are well aware of the ATV age restrictions. We adhere stiffly to those restrictions around here.
“Then we go to poker runs and see parents who just don’t care. They let their little kids ride ATVs that are much too big for them. That’s a concern, because that could mean tighter restrictions for us as a dealership.”
Her next concern is noise.
“I think there’s a place for that — like on the track. But even there, pipe manufacturers need to become more responsible and realize that even though bikes are on a closed-circuit race course, there are still neighbors.
“With our local ORV park, one neighbor complained about noise on the racetrack, which was enough for the county to decide not to deal with it.” The South Sound staff recommends ATV training to all buyers.
Sizzling at South Sound: The TRX 450R ATV, the VTX 1800 cruiser, the CRF 250R motocrosser, and the CRF 250X dirtbike. As for accessories, “We sell a lot of off-road helmets and whatever the customers use and want,” says Gray. “We carry Fox, Thor, Renthal, FMF, and Michelin and Dunlop tires, to name a few brands.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
“It's so hard to pinpoint our customers, but the majority are 25 to 45 years of age — just your average guy, looking for some fun and recreation,” notes Gray.
“The majority of the people haven’t ridden in the last 10 or 15 years, and now they’re coming back into the sport — especially those purchasing cruisers.
“We’re also seeing a lot of families purchasing multiple ATVs and dirtbikes so they can ride together. Just five minutes ago we delivered three ATVs to a family. We’re also seeing many families buying dirtbikes for their children who’d never bought them before. That’s really neat because those are future customers for us.”
“Keeping riding areas is always a struggle for us,” says Gray, “just retaining what we do have. Right in our backyard is the Capital Forest Area, which is a huge riding area. There was an ORV park that had been there for 26 years.
“As I mentioned, recently the county closed it — not for lack of funding, but because the county didn’t want to run it. So we’re battling that, and another county may take it over because it sees the potential.”
Gray says that off-road riders are growing by 10% to12% every year. “So if we lose riding areas, it means we could potentially lose customers — they’ll just find some other kind of recreation. It’s important for us to be really involved and make sure that our voices are heard, with both our county and state officials. We’re not just some little business; the powersports industry in Washington state is pretty big bucks.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
South Sound’s parts department has five employees, and service has eight — four technicians, and four support folks. Dale Gray is the shop foreman. “We completely gutted and remodeled our dealership last year,” says Vicki Gray. “It turned out fabulously. We’ve definitely seen the increase from that. Our showroom and parts department have much better layouts and customers appreciate that.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
South Sound advertises on the radio and in the local Cycle Trader every week. “Word-of-mouth is hugely important, so we try to be involved in most of the events that our customers attend, like off-road racing and motocross,” says Gray. “We’re well-known in our area because we get our name out there.” As for special events, “We have an open house in the Spring, and a customer invitational sale at Christmas for our good repeat customers.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Our motto is, ‘We sell fun,’” says Gray. “And we definitely do that. It’s a fun place to come to, and it’s a fun place to buy.” psb
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