Power Profiles

Riverside Marine & Cycle – Miles City, MT – Nov. 15, 2004

RIVERSIDE MARINE & CYCLE

CONTACT
2323 South Haynes Avenue
Miles City, MT 59301
406/232-3300

OWNERS
Roger Lothspeich and Tom Pezzarossi

BUSINESS PROFILE
Founded in 1969; Lothspeich and Pezzarossi bought the dealership in 2001. Moved to present 20,000-sq.-ft. location 18 months ago. Carries Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Polaris, and Suzuki. 80% of sales are ATV. “The previous owner said, ‘Base your business plan on 250 units per year, because you’ll never sell more than that.’ This year we’re going to hit 1,000 units,” notes Lothspeich. Also a Yamaha/Suzuki store in Dickinson, North Dakota (180 miles east) and a Polaris dealership in Glasgow, Montana (180 miles north).

WHAT’S HOT?
Miles City’s 8,000 people tend many thousands of cattle, so the Honda Rancher is the hot ATV at Riverside. “70% of our total sales are ATVs like the Honda Rancher, the Yamaha Grizzly 650, or the Yamaha Kodiak 450 going to work on the ranch,” says Lothspeich. “10% are for recreation — hunting, fishing — and that would be the Polaris line.”

CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Many family ranches in the area are run by the third generation. “The young man gets the first ATV on the ranch, and his dad — the old cowboy — says, ‘I’m never turning my horse out to pasture. I’ve ridden a horse all my life and I’ll never buy one of them things.’ It’s a lot of fun when they come in to buy an ATV and say, ‘I swore I’d never buy one of them damn things.’ During calving season an ATV is just critical. They drive up alongside the calf after it’s born, then hook the calf and hold it to put in its ear tag. With a horse you’d have to dismount, try to wrestle the 24- to 48-hour-old calf, then the mother cow gets in on the fight. Many ranchers tell me that the ATV has paid for itself in 24 to 48 months, just from the savings in calves and fuel.”

ANTI-POWERSPORTS ISSUES
Interestingly, all-terrain vehicles are street legal in the state of Montana. “You can drive right down Main Street in downtown Billings,” says Lothspeich. “We just have to put on a horn, a mirror, a brake light, and a lighted license plate holder. Turn signals are not necessary. People drive them to work.”

PARTS AND SERVICE
Riverside has three people devoted to parts and six to service. “We have a service writer, Dominic, who stays on top of the recalls in all the different makes and models,” explains Lothspeich.

PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
How does a dealer in a town of 8,000 people sell 1,000 units per year? Or sell ATVs to customers in 96 different zip codes in Montana–some hundreds of miles away — plus the Dakotas and Wyoming? “We have a heck of a reputation, and it’s all directly due to customer service,” says Lothspeich. “Even though I don’t own a cow, every calf is important to me. During calving season in March and April, a calf is vulnerable to dying from the cold weather conditions. Many of my customers have 10 to 20 ATVs, because they have hired men. But say it’s March or April and my customer’s one and only ATV breaks down. If he’s within a 200-mile radius of Miles City, one of my trucks and a driver goes out to the ranch, gives them a loaner at no charge, brings the broken ATV back to the store, repairs it, then takes that ATV back to the ranch and picks up our loaner. All the customer pays is the repair bill — I don’t care if that was fifty bucks. Let’s keep that calf alive — that’s the name of the game. So that customer tells his rancher buddy down the road.” Another Riverside policy: “Officially we close at 5:30, but if there’s a warm body in the store–even if my employees are just changing the oil in their pickups — you answer up the phone. I don’t care if it’s 8 or 9 o’clock at night. I test my employees by calling, too.”

WORDS OF ADVICE
“It’s pretty simple, says Lothspeich. “They’re coming to your dealership with a checkbook. Take care of this man and he’ll tell everybody. It’s not rocket science. It’s a pain sometimes, and a lot of work, but you’re coming to work anyway. Let’s do this stuff right.”

— Julie Filatoff

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