Six Bends H-D focuses on outdoor spaces to deliver a social experience
When the industry talks about the expanse of any given dealership, often the number that is brought up is the square footage of the facility itself. While Scott Fischer Enterprises’ Six Bends Harley-Davidson’s dealership comes in at an impressive 54,000 square feet, it’s the entire 16.5-acre Six Bends facility that really presents a unique picture.
In addition to the primary facility, Six Bends also includes 3-acre concert venue Top Rocker Field, a 2 1/2-acre rider education facility, a fire pit with room for 20 to sit and commercial space set for new vendors as Phase II of the project is completed this summer.
“We wanted to build a venue that we could create things going on,” Fischer told Powersports Business. “As a Harley dealer if you’re a good dealership, and you do something, your customers come to you. It’s not hard to get our customers to come to stuff. But how do we get other people to come?”
The primary aim of Six Bends’ complex is to bring in motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike, for entertainment, and to teach them about the Harley-Davidson lifestyle in a less intimidating fashion.
“What we’re really looking to do is create a social environment for the non-riders and riders to spend time and really have a social experience there,” Fischer said.
Six Bends Harley-Davidson represents the sixth move for Fischer’s Fort Myers, Fla., dealership, formerly known as Harley-Davidson of Fort Myers. Fischer, who has run a dealership in that area for 27 years, purchased the Six Bends property before the recession and held off on developing it until the time was right economically. Last June, Fischer announced plans for the development of Six Bends, and the dealership opened with great success in late October.
“In just our new motorcycle sales alone, we’ve had 25-percent growth in just November and December, and that’s at a store that’s at the very peak of market potential,” Fischer said. “We’re growing the market because of that location change.”
General merchandise sales were also on the rise in November and December, which Fischer credited to efforts to bring in the local community.
“That’s the product that people will buy that’s not a rider. They’ll buy a Harley shirt; they’ll buy a Harley hat, the shot glasses,” Fischer said. “That business was staggering over the holidays, and that’s because of the people that we brought in there.”
With indoor and outdoor spaces available for dealership events and rentals, the dealership saw solid traffic throughout its first few months.
“It’s been very busy, and we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface,” Fischer reported.
Around Christmas, the dealership hosted Six Bends Holidays, which included bands playing holiday music, a dog Rudolf Look Alike Contest, a Mr. and Mrs. Naughty Claus contest, an ugly Christmas sweater contest, a marshmallow cook-off, Victorian carolers and photos in front of an oversized Christmas tree, which attracted thousands to the outdoor plaza. A January car show also attracted about 3,000 visitors, and Top Rocker Field will soon play host to the Cattle Baron’s Ball, at which 700-800 attendees will pay big money for a seat at the American Cancer Society fundraiser.
“What we did in this location that probably makes it very unique in our industry, is we have a lot of outdoor space, so that we really truly can attract events that can happen on location and not negatively impact the dealership, and what I mean by that is at our old location and other locations that we have, when you have a really big event going on, the dealership can’t operate as normal,” Fischer said.
Indoors, Six Bends also offers the Triple Tree Room, a rental space that can accommodate up to 300 people. Already about five events have been booked in that room, including a “Sons of Anarchy” VIP finale event hosted by actors Kim Coates and Theo Rossi on Dec. 9.
The impact of the events and other marketing efforts has been so huge that it has led Fischer to increase his staff by more than 50 percent. Last year, when Fischer told Powersports Business about building the dealership, he was only anticipating a 35-40 percent staff increase.
“None of this would be possible without really world-class staff,” he said. “Our staff in this store, they’re just so tuned into what we’re doing, and they’re making a difference.”
Though it’s typical for a Harley-Davidson dealership to attract riders — and Six Bends will be hosting plenty of events for its loyal fans — Six Bends is also aimed at bringing in new riders and teaching the community about the Harley and Six Bends culture.
“Most people have this image that it would be like walking into the Hells Angels clubhouse, and we’re creating the destination that gives people the opportunity to come on site and then get into the Harley store, and it’s having a phenomenal impact,” Fischer said.
As the community has filtered in for events so far, newcomers have also wandered into the dealership, which inside is plastered with lifestyle images, and new audio and visual technology used to showcase the Six Bends name — which comes from the bends in a handlebar — and the Six Bends rider lifestyle.
“Everybody that goes in is really kind of blown away,” Fischer said.
Staff frequently gives new visitors full tours of the 16-acre site, making sure to stop by the 2 1/2-acre rider training facility, with its 26 training bikes.
“The whole purpose of this project when it’s all said and done is to sell more motorcycles; that’s clear,” Fischer said. “We’re going to do that through rider education and a gateway for riders.”
So far, the response to the rider training facility has been impressive, as Six Bends has fully booked a number of weekday and weeknight classes.
“What’s driving people to take rider education is to be a part of our business,” Fischer said.
The dealership has always offered rider training, but with the previous location, training was held off-site. Now, customers can easily see the entire facility, which with its lit-up lot, can host classes day and night.
With its new Interstate 75-visible presence and a long list of events already in the rearview mirror, Six Bends has become a conversation piece within Fort Myers.
“This by far has impacted the community far greater than I thought it would. Everywhere I go, people ask me about the new Harley store. They’ve heard about it, and they’ve seen it,” Fischer said. The location, which is now closer to Florida Gulf Coast University, has also begun drawing in the younger crowd as both customers and part-time employees.
So far, Six Bends hasn’t had any problem attracting the local community. But Fischer has his sights set even wider, as his goal is to bring in visitors from across the U.S., Canada and worldwide.
“Our focus really became that we needed to have a location that we can develop and market as a worldwide destination,” Fischer explained.
With Fort Myers’ year-round warm weather, the region already hosts direct flights from Canada and Germany, and Fischer is hoping tourists from those regions and others will make the effort to stop by Six Bends during their trips.
Though the first phase of Six Bends has already seen remarkable success, a Phase II is still in the works. When developing Six Bends, Fischer added to the site a commercial space, which has been designed to attract other businesses that could bring new clientele into the dealership.
“Phase II will really continue what we’re doing, which will be bringing food and restaurants and drinking establishments and retail establishments on site to share what we’re doing right now,” Fischer said.
He’s currently working with California-based brand specialist Shook Kelley on Six Bends’ plans for adding retail partners. Ideally, Fischer would like to attract at least a tattoo parlor, a barber shop, a local restaurant and a small bar or microbrewery.
“I do care who is going to be in Phase II,” he said. “I’m picking the tenants that I want to be in there. I want them to fit into the Six Bends strategy.”
Fischer will begin picking partner retailers this year, with the goal of each to bring in new customers and draw customers to visit more frequently and stay at the complex longer during each visit.
“There’s a real divide between riders and non-riders, yet both groups of people like the same thing — they like music; they like food; they like whatever kind of drinking establishment; they like tattoos; they all get their hair cut the same way,” Fischer said. “There’s a divide between our riders and non-riders, and that’s only because non-riders don’t understand our business, and for me to grow our business, I have to create a space to share and that they’re excited to share.”
His hope is that by bringing together riders and non-riders, more of those non-riders will convert to the Harley-Davidson lifestyle.
“The ideal situation with Six Bends,” he said, “is that it’s a destination where riders and non-riders will spend time because there things to do beyond spending money on Harley-Davidson merchandise.”