Power Profiles

Calmes Motorsports – Denham Springs, LA – June 7, 2004

2323 Florida Boulevard
Denham Springs, La. 70726

Butch Calmes

35,000-sq.-ft. dealership on two floors, founded in 1997 near Baton Rouge. The Calmes family also owns an adjacent, 30-year-old, Corvette-part-fabrication business. Carries full lines of Kawasaki and Polaris (including Victory motorcycles, but not snowmobiles). Largest-selling segment is streetbike. 11 employees.

“Insurance on streetbikes is a big concern,” says Kevin Calmes, general manager. “HRSI does a really good job insuring a customer who does not need full coverage. Under $10,000, all they really need is liability; over $10,000, they must have comp and collision. Banks need full coverage on any motorcycle over $1,000. People age 18 to 30 may pay more on their monthly insurance than on their bike note.”

Calmes says Suzuki’s GSXR sportbike lineup and the race-replica Kawasaki Hayabusa sell well, as does the Suzuki Volusia 800cc cruiser. “We sell a ton of Polaris Sportsman ATVs,” he adds. The dealership moves few PWC. Hot-selling parts include clutches and rear tires — “I have customers who think they can do burnouts all day long.”

Calmes’ average sportbike customer is age 18 to 60. A year ago, they sold a 600cc GSXR to an 87-year-old gentleman. “Now that he’s 88, he’s fixing to buy a 750cc.” Calmes says rising gas prices have caused some customers to purchase a motorcycle for commuting. “It costs $7 to fill up a bike, instead of $50 for their Suburban.”

Calmes has two parts counterpeople, two service writers, and four mechanics, all of whom receive full factory updates. The parts department is meticulously managed by Kevin’s aunt; mom, dad, and the four brothers work at the dealership, “and three guys who went to school with us whom we’ve been known for more than 15 years. Everybody’s really close.”

Calmes’ live weekly radio spots are voiced by rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey Richard Condon. “He’s never really owned a motorcycle, but since he’s been dealing with us, he probably knows more about motorcycles than we do,” says Calmes. “The station plays old and new rock and appeals to audiences 18 to 45.” A few years ago Calmes broadcasted a series of live radio ads on the show of a local team, Walter and Johnston (who have since gone to the Dallas market). “They talked for one to two minutes before my live spot. I got to be really good friends with them, and they always did more for me.” An ongoing gag was that a customer could visit the dealership to “leg-wrestle a Calmes boy, and they’ll knock $500 off the price of a bike.” “With four brothers, they never know which one,” adds Calmes. “I’ve been off that show for two years, and still maybe one customer a day comes in and says, ‘I want to leg-wrestle.’ I tell my dad, Butch, ‘That was good money spent.’ Also, a couple of kids ride dirtbikes for us — we go to the track and help. And we used to sponsor a National Hot Rod Association team, but pulled out this year.”

“Butch, always told me, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’,” says Calmes. “Recently we had a customer who pulled up in an old, beat-up truck; his jeans and shirt looked like he had been wearing them for three weeks straight, and he had straggly hair. He said he’d like to buy an ATV. He pulled out $10,000 in cash and bought the best four-wheeler on the market. He said, ‘Don’t let the truck and the clothes fool you. I have money and I work. At another dealership, they looked at me like I was crazy.’” psb

—Julie Filatoff

If you would like to share your story with the readers of Powersports Business, please contact Julie Filatoff at filatoff@cybermesa.com.

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