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Iowa dealer turns up the heat on sales

By Kate Swanson

R/J Performance sells Green Mountain grills

What began as a way to drive customer traffic has grown into steady business for one dealer. R/J Performance, of Ottumwa, Iowa, located about 90 miles southeast of Des Moines, began selling Green Mountain grills seven years ago.

“The timing was pretty good,” said Rick Canode, president of R/J Performance and Indian Motorcycle of Wapello County, who said that the wood pellet grill was just taking off at the same time that he added Green Mountain to his offerings. “It’s another draw to get people in. I’ve been trying to make little additions just to draw people in and get them to travel. Our business didn’t get where it was at because of 20,000 people in Ottumwa.”

With a smaller population, the dealership has to work hard to bring customers, new and old, into the store. Since adding Green Mountain grills, Canode says the dealership sells approximately 30 per year. The dealership also carries refills of Traegar wood pellets.

R/J Performance opened in a 1,500-square-foot facility in 1982 as an independent service, parts and accessory store for all makes. By the late ‘80s, the dealership began selling used motorcycles and ATVs. In 1994, it acquired the Polaris line, followed by Yamaha in 1999. The dealership was one of the original 120 Victory dealers in the country in 1999 and was also one of only four Victory dealers in Iowa.

R/J Performance added its Indian line, Indian Motorcycle of Wapello County, in early 2015.

R/J Performance added its Indian line, Indian Motorcycle of Wapello County, in early 2015.

“When I started RJP in 1982, I wanted the motorcycle customers of this area to have a place to have their units serviced and another place to buy parts and accessories. … RJP is a customer-driven business, and that begins with service. I have been totally involved and engaged in my business.

“I believe in reinvesting my money into the business, and that’s what I’ve done. The better the business does, the more I can put into the business. It’s just continuing to make it better for the customer, and it drives business at the same time,” said Canode.

With continued growth and expansion throughout the 2000s, today’s R/J Performance boasts more than 20,000 square feet of storage, service and showroom space. Canode said that the dealership’s location in relation to the highway has also been important for business visibility. “I knew that I wanted to get to the four-lane (highway) for the traffic, and just room to have customers where they can ride their ATVs, and of course the motorcycle people can get to us really easy as well,” he added.

“We have the little things that most everybody can afford and then we have the bigger things. We’ve got the full Indian lineup now,” said Canode, who added Indian Motorcycle of Wapello County a little over a year ago.  The line has been a traffic builder, and the dealership has already hosted several successful ride days with its new brand.

Overall business has been good for R/J Performance, with Polaris units leading across the board. “Victory and Indian, of course, are both growing, so we’re getting some of that motorcycle industry back,” said Canode. “Yamaha off-road has been a little slow, but they were really due for new models, and they’re slowly doing that. The Polaris Ranger line is the leader across the country and then it is in our area too.”

R/J Performance hosts annual events to draw people in. R/J Fun Day, which takes place the fourth weekend in September each year, has had thousands of participants. In its seventh year, the customer appreciation event is open to the public and includes a “run what you’ve brung” drag race track.

“It goes back to what I’ve been doing since 1982 — getting out there and spreading the word and the name out. It’s what we do,” said Canode.

 

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