RR 6, Box 6020
Honesdale, PA 18431-9418
40,000-sq.-ft. northeastern Pennsylvania dealership founded in 1968 “in my parents’ garage,” says Manager Melissa Palmer. “Then we moved into another building in the early 1970s, took on boats in the early 1990s, dropped boats soon after, and moved into our current dealership in 1992.” Carries Honda (except PWC), Kawasaki, Yamaha, Arctic Cat, and E-Ton ATVs. Largest-selling segment is ATV, followed by motorcycle, snowmobile, and PWC. 65 employees.
Powersports Business spoke with Palmer one day before the start of the war with Iraq. “Unfortunately, with the threat of war, people are a little more conservative in how they spend.” While acknowledging that “this industry could fall—we’ve seen PWC sales decline,” Palmer prefers to focus on the positives.
“Dirtbike sales have really increased. It’s cool to see parents come in with their kids and buy dirtbikes as a family. Younger children want dirtbikes because they watch races on cable and satellite television. We recently picked up the Arenacross series in our area. The day after an event, people run into the dealership because they’re so excited.”
Sliding out the door at Rusty’s: “The new Yamaha Grizzly 660cc ATV is a very good seller for us,” says Palmer. “We also sell quite a few Honda Ranchers and Kawasaki Prairies.” The dealership does well with Yamaha off-road motorcycles, but Palmer says sales go according to what’s in or out, “because people do read up prior to coming in. Yamaha’s new GP1300 PWC will probably be a very hot seller.
“As for snowmobiles, the new Yamaha RX-1 and Arctic Cat’s Firecat series were excellent this season.” Palmer’s helmet inventory “far exceeds any dealership I’ve ever visited, and I’ve been to quite a few. In ATV accessories, we flip-flop depending on the newest trend. Right now it’s a lot of Thor items. We have camo kits, Big Foot kits, tankbags, and windshields.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
“Customers regularly come from as far away as Connecticut,” notes Palmer. “Our restaurant, Rusty’s Café, brings in a lot of repeat customers. They come in Saturday morning for breakfast. It’s really quite beautiful, decorated in oak, mauve, and white. You’d never expect to see it in a motorcycle store.”
Palmer has seen fewer cash buyers, “because each manufacturer has its own financing company and the deals are phenomenal. We’re able to get more people financed. Also, we put fully accessorized machines on our showroom floor and tell customers what the sale price is as they appear. So that's been hot — people fully dressing their vehicles before they even leave.”
A Rails to Trails program based in the small town of Forest City, Penn., has banned ATVs from the trails. “It used to be that ATVs, snowmobiles, and mountain bikes could use it, but they say that some ATV riders were abusing property,” says Palmer. “Unfortunately it takes very few people to make a bad reputation for everybody.”
Parts and service
Rusty Palmer’s has more than 20 service technicians, all schooled through the OEMs programs, plus one full-time service writer and a service manager who also writes up orders. “We’re trying to integrate a computer system,” says Palmer. “Many of the fuel-injected Jet Skis can be diagnosed via computer. And we have five parts clerks who are constantly busy — there are seven phone lines that never stop.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“This industry is up and down, so patience is a virtue,” notes Melissa Palmer. “Some years you may do better than others, just like any business. And employees are your backbone. We’ve had some staff members for 32 years. Without them, this business definitely would not be where it is today. We’re very interested in our employees’ needs and wants and listen to what they have to say.”