Motor Cycle Center
518 W. St. Charles Road
Villa Park, Ill. 60181
Greg and Geoff Mellinger
Although Motor Cycle Center’s tagline is “Specializing in European Motorcycles since 1980,” the Mellinger brothers were enamored with rides from across the pond long before that. Greg and Geoff Mellinger grew up riding a myriad of European dirt bikes as youngsters, an obsession that eventually evolved into an affinity for fixing friends’ motorcycles as teenagers. When the two attracted the ire of their father with upwards of 30 bikes in the garage and no cars, they moved their operations to their own shop in the Chicago suburb of Villa Park, Ill. They didn’t take on their first brand until 1982, which was Husqvarna, a line the dealership still carries. Over the years Motor Cycle Center (MCC) added and dropped brands as they came and went, including Cagiva, the former Ducati parent company. Today, in addition to Husqvarna and Ducati, the dealership carries KTM, MV Agusta and Triumph motorcycles. Instead of two brothers working on bikes in a garage, they have seven other employees who work in a 5,000-square-feet facility and sell more than 400 motorcycles a year. These days, nearly 90 percent of the motorcycles it sells are street bikes, says Greg Mellinger. However, the brothers haven’t abandoned their dirt biking and off-roading roots, often racing on the weekends.
Greg Mellinger’s worries as a powersports dealer are two-fold. First, he’s not a fan of government intervention, especially where the Environmental Protection Agency and aftermarket exhaust systems are concerned. “It makes it so people have to worry about where they’re going to ride,” Greg Mellinger said. “It makes it more difficult for people to do what they want with their own motorcycles.” The U.S. dollar to Euro ratio also brings anxious thoughts, particularly since the entirety of MCC’s inventory comes from Europe. A weakened U.S. dollar translates to higher motorcycle prices for the dealership’s customers.
With a handful of Japanese powersports dealerships not far away, MCC stands out with its European product. This year, the Triumph Daytona 675 not only captured interest amongst MCC customers because it was British but also because it matched up favorably with Japanese motorcycles on price, with the added bonus of higher performance, says Greg Mellinger. Ducati’s darling of the year, the 1098, is also a popular choice at the dealership.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
The ramifications of the Baby Boom are hitting MCC, but that’s not all bad, Greg Mellinger says. “Some of the older guys are getting a little too old to ride,” he noted. “We’ve seen the guys grow up, and they’re getting close to retirement age, but their kids are starting to come in and get into [riding].” These younger riders are much more savvy buyers, thanks to the Internet. Greg Mellinger says they often know exactly what they want before they come in the store. “It keeps us on our toes,” he added. “We have to know more than them about our products, which can be difficult sometimes.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Accessories have done well this year at MCC, with most buyers putting at least a few extras on their motorcycles, notes Greg Mellinger. The dealership’s service department offers free pick up and delivery in the winter and stresses to its customers the benefits of getting major work done during the cold and snowy months. With this effort to balance the service load, MCC is able to keep its full-time service staff year round. Next year the dealership plans to add a green line tech — one who will take care of quick turnaround jobs like oil and sparkplug changes.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
MCC believes in getting its customers to actually try out the products the dealership offers to them through demo days and the like. The two most successful of these events are a track day at the Joliet Autobahn and a visit from the Triumph Truck to MCC. When events like this come up, customers get excited to try out the newest products, Greg Mellinger says.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“You have to think long term,” Greg Mellinger said. “You can’t do anything short-sighted because it’s going to come back and get you. You have to think about things like how you’re going to get through the winter to make it longer than a few years in this business.”
— Lisa Young
Motor Cycle Center – Villa Park, IL – Dec. 24, 2007