Midwest dealers — and competitors — St. Croix Ural, Leo’s South host a Russian-themed gathering for their customers
The menu included blini, duck fat potatoes, pickled apricots, Moscow mules, grapefruit beer and more. The location was the patio of Moscow on the Hill, a Russian restaurant in St. Paul, Minn. The crowd was more than a dozen Ural owners looking to get together to talk about their journeys on their Urals and about their personal lives with friends old and new.
In June, St. Croix Ural and Leo’s South co-hosted the Midwest Ural Gathering, an event that has been gaining steam since the dealerships first launched it in 2012.
The Midwest Ural Gathering was the idea of Dell Zehm, owner of St. Croix Ural in New Richmond, Wis. Zehm, who has been a Ural dealer for about 20 years (and also has owned St. Croix Harley-Davidson for about three decades) developed the concept after Leo’s South added Ural in 2012.
Both Zehm and Wayne Bedeaux, owner of Leo’s South in Lakeville, Minn., see each other more as friends than competitors. In fact, if it weren’t for Zehm encouraging Ural to open another dealership nearby, Leo’s South probably wouldn’t be carrying Ural.
“What I was finding was if somebody wanted to buy a Ural, one of the big questions to overcome, basically the objection, was, ‘Where’s the nearest other dealer?’ Because if you don’t take care of them, or if they don’t like you, or if they get mad at you, where are they going to go?” Zehm said.
After Leo’s South added Ural, sales increased at both dealerships, as customers who were on the fence were finally comfortable that they had two options for sales, service and parts. Considering the success that followed, Zehm asked Bedeaux if Leo’s South would be interested in a Ural owners gathering in the Twin Cities.
Zehm chose to have the event at Moscow on the Hill because he enjoyed the food, and it has an ideal theme and menu, considering Urals are manufactured in Russia. (Zehm has been to the factory in the Ural Mountains himself.) Also, the location is central to the two dealerships, with St. Croix Ural sitting about 40 miles east of St. Paul, and Leo’s South located about 20 miles south.
The gathering is designed for Ural riders to get together and bring friends to share in the Ural culture.
“We just invite all of our Ural customers for a ride and a meet-and-greet and a gathering and have a bit of food and drink or two and have some fun,” Bedeaux said. He then added, “It’s fun. It gets us all out of the store, and we get to meet and talk to our customers in an informal, non-business setting, and the customers enjoy it.”
The two dealerships hosted the Midwest Ural Gathering in 2012 and 2013. However, they skipped 2014 before bringing the event back this year.
“We would’ve done it last year, but sales were down because Ural came out with the fuel injection, and everybody was real reluctant to buy the first year,” Zehm said.
But after hearing from a few heartbroken Ural owners last year, Zehm and Bedeaux decided to bring the event back for 2015, and they don’t plan on skipping any years in the future.
Both say that the Ural event is held separately than their typical dealership events because Ural riders are different than traditional motorcyclists.
“They’re really social because we always tell them if you’re buying this Ural, you’d better not be under the witness protection program because it draws a crowd. So they’re more outgoing. They can’t be introverted; they just can’t. If they are, they’re going to be miserable because you go in to get groceries or something, and you come out, and there’s a big crowd around it,” Zehm said.
Bedeaux added, “They’re very laid back because a Ural’s not about speed; Ural’s just about slowing down, enjoying life, enjoying the ride and getting off the beaten path a little bit, and that’s what these people like to do, and they enjoy it.”
Though the turnout in June was on par with previous years, Zehm said he’s always hoping customers will bring more prospects, so they can learn about the Ural lifestyle. However, considering the popularity this event has garnered, the two dealerships will continue to work together and host the gathering on an annual basis.
“Even though we’re, I guess, competitors, we try to work together and get along,” Bedeaux said. “There’s not a lot of Ural owners around, so we can invite a bigger, more diverse group of customers this way, and it works well.”