Snow City Cycle Marine – Scarborough, ON, Canada – Aug. 16, 2004

Snow City Cycle Marine
1255 Kennedy Road
Scarborough, ON M1P 2L4, Canada
Vira and George Persichilli
The Persichillis founded the dealership in metropolitan Toronto in 1971, selling Rupp snowmobiles and Keystone minibikes. The shop now carries Sea-Doo and Yamaha PWC; Sea-Doo jet boats; Ski-Doo snowmobiles; Arctic Cat, Bombardier, Honda, and Yamaha ATVs; Honda and Yamaha motorcycles; and Yamaha generators. “We gave up Arctic Cat and Yamaha snowmobiles and have taken on Ski-Doo,” says Vira Persichilli. Largest-selling segments are motorcycle and ATV (equal), then PWC, but Persichilli says this year they’ll sell just over 100 watercraft. “Normally we can sell 280. For Canada, that’s good, eh?” Although downtown, the shop is just 10 minutes from Lake Ontario. 22 employees, six part-time and 16 full-time, plus the owners. Sell about 1,000 serialized items per year (approximately CAN$11 million).
Persichilli’s greatest concern, by far: “Insurance has been a factor on sales of just about everything. The insurance companies are really jamming us — they’re working this 9/11 stuff. For example, my home insurance doubled, and I’ve never made a claim in 32 years. I don’t believe for a minute that they’re losing a dime. If you make a claim, you’re in trouble. You have to keep everything under wraps yourself.”
“The Sea-Doo RXP two-seater ‘musclecraft’ is the hot watercraft this year, and in motorcycles, the CBR 600 sportbike was the highest-volume unit,” says Persichilli. “Second was the Yamaha V-Star 1100cc cruiser. In ATVs, the best sellers have been the Arctic Cat DVX 400 sport quad and the Arctic Cat 500. So every marque had its own niche.” Being in downtown Toronto, Persichilli says, enables them to sell “a lot” of parts and accessories.
Snow City has a wide-ranging clientele. “I think it’s because we have such a variety of products that we attract the doctor, the businessman, and the outdoorsman,” says Persichilli. “It’s lucky that we have a diverse customer base, otherwise we’d be in trouble. You can’t focus on one product line to make a living. Take this year, for example: ATV sales are not quite as good as last year, but motorcycle sales are better, and sales of watercraft and jet boats are down. Weather is the biggest factor in our business. If the weather is there, the product sells — I don’t care what kind of recession we’re in. Our snowfall in Toronto has been terrible the last few years. That’s why we went with Ski-Doo — even if it doesn’t snow, they sell.”
Persichilli says that this year she has “not heard too much” about anti-powersports issues.
Snow City’s service department includes two writers, five technicians, and two yard men. “We have a great service department,” says Persichilli. “I oversee that personally. I’m really a hands-on person, so I’m involved with each individual employee and department. We may not have meetings as a group, but we’re in constant communication. In service, we get customers in and out of here quickly, and we call them back. We do everything possible for the customer. Of course you’re going to get the occasional customer who complains, but if we’ve made a mistake they’re in and out of here even quicker.” Parts consists of three full-time and two part-time staffers, plus one part-time unpacker.
George Persichilli oversees public relations, unit deliveries, and “problematic” customers. “His face is everywhere,” says Vira. “We’ve used him in newspaper and Auto Trader advertisements for almost 10 years, so everybody knows him. He can’t go anywhere without people recognizing him. He’s a personable guy whom you can put into a Santa Claus or bunny rabbit suit, and he’ll make you laugh. I’m here for business and trying to make money. Back in the 1980s they called us ‘The Dynamic Duo,’ and we’re still here — so I’m pretty proud of us.” Another of George’s duties is attending the many trade shows at which Snow City exhibits. “At each show we feature different product lines,” explains Vira. “At the snowmobile show this October we’ll feature Ski-Doo because this is our first year as a dealer, although we’ve been a snowmobile dealer from day one. At the December and January motorcycle shows we’ll feature Honda and Yamaha. The week-long Toronto boat show — the biggest one in Canada — is in January, followed in February by the week-long auto show, the largest in North America. Then there’s the sportsman’s show and the cottage show. It’s draining, but we find that’s where we do a lot of business.” Persichilli cleans up the mailing list annually, and it contains 13,000 names. “Some of them are not shopping for powersports vehicles anymore, but their kids are. A guy will say, ‘Oh, I was here when I was seven years old.’ It really makes you feel good when that happens.”
“Everybody’s ‘Number One’ in my book — customers and employees,” says Persichilli. Persichilli’s second piece of advice: “Be fair. As long as you don’t gouge people, believe me — they’ll come back. But don’t let somebody nickel-and-dime you for a hundred bucks. I’m in the city of Toronto, so my garbage costs $2,000 per month to remove, yet a dealer 300 miles away can burn his garbage in the backyard. So if a customer wants to deal with him, that’s fine. But I need the extra hundred bucks or I can’t do business. Customers must understand that if they want the convenience of a dealership in the city, they have to pay for it. And price is not always the answer to keeping a customer. George has always been so helpful. He has his cell phone on all weekend and tries to get people out of jams, if he can. We put 110% into our business, and I think that’s why we are where we’re at.” psb
—Julie Filatoff
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