Vern Eide chooses downtown Sturgis for western South Dakota dealership
When Vern Eide Motocars began working with Polaris Industries on establishing an Indian dealership in western South Dakota, Polaris’ demographic research showed Rapid City was the ideal location. But management at Vern Eide pushed instead to return Indian to Sturgis, where the brand is deeply entrenched in the city and its annual motorcycle rally.
“When we looked at it, we looked at the history and the heritage that Indian Motorcycle has in Sturgis, South Dakota, and everything points to wanting to be in Sturgis. Sturgis, in our opinion, is hallowed ground for Indian Motorcycle,” said Jeff Johnson, director of dealer development for Indian Motorcycle Sturgis.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was launched by Clarence “Pappy” Hoel, who formed the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club out of his Indian franchise in Sturgis. Now that the rally attracts about half a million people annually, the Vern Eide group thought 2014 would be the perfect time to bring an Indian dealership back to the city for the first time in decades.
Launching in Sturgis
Johnson has been involved with the bid for an Indian franchise in western South Dakota ever since his MidAmerica MotoPlex in Sioux Falls took on the line last summer.
“That’s kind of what opened our eyes to Indian and the potential for Indian, and then we kind of got our feet on the ground with Indian. I think we were the third dealership in the country that got our showroom installed last June and early July, and we saw the tremendous potential that Indian Motorcycle had,” Johnson told Powersports Business.
At the same time Johnson was in talks with Polaris about opening another Indian store, he was also looking to merge his multi-line Sioux Falls dealership with Vern Eide Motocars, a 50-plus-year-old company with eight auto dealerships featuring 17 brands in three states.
“It was kind of like a perfect storm that just came together, and everything worked out,” he explained.
Vern Eide last year took on MidAmerica MotoPlex, renaming it Vern Eide MotoPlex. Along with Indian, the dealership also carries Polaris, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Sea-Doo, Victory, Triumph and Sea-Doo.
Following that, the group began working on an Indian presence in western South Dakota.
Heart of downtown
Once the Sturgis location was decided upon, Vern Eide selected 2106 Lazelle St. in downtown Sturgis as the home for the dealership. The facility was previously the site of Competition Distributing, a manufacturer and distributor of parts for antique motorcycles founded by Lonnie Isam.
“We’re located right in the heart of Lazelle Street in the middle of Sturgis, so it kind of puts us right at rally central. We’re right there where everything is taking place,” Johnson said.
The 5,700-square-foot facility currently holds about 10-11 new Indian bikes, with space for pre-owned V-twin units as well. The dealership, which had a soft opening May 21, is starting out with 9-10 full-time employees, including two techs.
Though Indian Motorcycle Sturgis has completed light renovations to get the dealership through this summer and the Aug. 4-10 rally, a larger update is in store next.
“We have a big remodel and expansion of the existing building planned to start this fall, so we’ll have the brand new Indian store open for the 75th anniversary rally in August of 2015,” Johnson reported.
In the meantime, Indian Motorcycle Sturgis is working with Polaris to set plans for this year’s rally. The two are presenting a united Indian experience throughout the event, with demos and live music among some of the plans.
“Indian Motorcycle Sturgis will be intricately involved in the rally from taking part in the rally, being the only Indian dealer out there, as well as tied close to the corporate marketing effort,” Johnson said.
Though rally week is expected to be a big sales event for Indian Motorcycle Sturgis, the dealership will be open and fully functional throughout the year.
“The business plan that we’ve put together and that we’ve worked with Polaris on, it will be a fully-functioning year-round dealership, and it’s planned to be profitable year-round also,” Johnson said. “Outside of the summer rally months, we have a very strong marketing plan in place to market … in the western South Dakota market, but also up in the oil fields of North Dakota. We’re only about an hour and a half from there, and that area is just booming — going through the roof — and we look for that to continue.”
The dealership looks to lean on Vern Eide Motorcars’ five decades of experience in building its customer network and growing its business.
“They talk about the Eide Advantage. When you purchase a vehicle at Vern Eide, you get service and get taken care of, better than any other dealership. And that doesn’t matter if you’re buying something at the Vern Eide MotoPlex in the powersports world, or if you’re buying something at the Acura store or the Honda store or the Ford store,” Johnson said. “The way that Vern Eide trains their people to take care of their customers can be matched against anyone else in the country, and we’re just going to roll that into western South Dakota, to the motorcycling community out there.”
And with Indian sales already doing well at the Sioux Falls store, management is sure the brand will thrive 360 miles west.
“It is just absolutely a blast working with the Indian customers that come in. We’ve been a metric store for many years, and last year we got Indian and Victory in the same year, and it is so much fun taking care of these customers that are coming in looking at Indian and Victory and trading them out of their Harley,” Johnson said. “Sales have been through the roof so far this year. It’s going to be a strong bike year this year — I can just tell. And I think it’s because of all the excitement around Indian and Victory.”