4125 NW 97th Boulevard
Gainesville, Fla., 32606
27,000-sq.-ft. dealership founded in 1993 at the present location. Carries Harley-Davidson and Buell. 32 employees.
“I’ve been in the powersports industry for 15 years now at different locations, and I think it’s great,” says John Boots, general manager. “Especially here in the South. Motorcycling is year-round and has become a way of life, as opposed to a way of release, as it was in the Detroit store I managed. I have employees who don’t own cars. It’s a completely different endeavor that I think is just going to snowball. It’s much more accepted now than even five or eight years ago. And there’s good competition.”
“Since Florida has year-round riding weather, people enjoy the Harley-Davidson touring models because they have space to carry their luggage and briefcases,” says Boots. “That seems to be our best line right now. And we sell a lot of Harley-Davidson custom paint. We stock it most of the ‘flavors’ and sell it to other dealers all over the country.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
“Because we’re the first dealer as people come south on I-75 in Florida, probably one-third of our customers are transients,” says Boots. “We’re about 70 miles from the state line. People get off the interstate in Gainesville and think they’re in Miami!”
What trends has Boots spotted? “There’s a lot more price shopping, and a much bigger selection now, so people can be more specific about what they want. The communication issue — the Internet — has become a huge part of buying a motorcycle. Now customers can flip up a web site and see my inventory or that of somebody in the state of Washington.
“Florida is a nice place to vacation, so they can fly here, buy a bike, and kill two birds with one stone.”
Gainesville has an employee who helps new-bike buyers select accessories right on the spot, “and a quality assurance person who makes sure the customer’s happy. He checks on ‘out-the-door’ issues and first service. It works very well.”
“The noise issue is probably nationwide, but it is big here,” notes Boots.
“Florida does not require insurance on motorcycles — one of maybe three states in the nation. I believe in the near future that’s going to be a huge issue. Not so much for the Harley rider, because most have insurance and can afford it, but for the sportbike rider. It’s so expensive that most of them aren’t insured.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Gainesville has six staffers in parts and 12 in service, including technicians, writers, “bay people,” and a manager. “We built this facility a year-and-a-half ago,” says Boots. “What is now our service department was the entire store. We’ve made major increases in square footage, personnel, and inventory, and changes in procedures. It has been a long, slow trail that has come to an end and we’re doing very well.” The service department has two lifts per technician and an in-house dyno.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Boots says Gainesville participates in many events, particularly those with a community-service bent. “We’re involved heavily with the Boys and Girls Club and the county humane society. That strengthens not only Harley-Davidson but motorcycling in general, when they realize that our interest is the community and not just making noise. That has helped out immensely.” The dealership is a destination for folks making their way to Daytona Bike Week. “We advertise in Thunder Press so that everybody around the country knows we’re here. We have hotdogs and coffee all the time and encourage them to hang out as much as we can. We sponsor the All-Harley Drag Races at the same time as Daytona Bike Week. It’s a nice event; they can stop her for a day of Harley-Davidson drag racing then go on as they like.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Let’s enjoy and sell motorcycles,” advises Boots. “It’s a great community. A lot of dealers now are starting to realize it’s not just a dollar thing. It’s a fun lifestyle for people who ride all brands, and it’s growing.”
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