Dealership looks forward to 105th year of business
For America’s oldest Harley dealer, A.D. Farrow Co. Harley-Davidson, giving back to the community is just part of its DNA. The Ohio-based dealership, founded in 1912, has three separate locations in Sunbury, Pataskala and downtown Columbus. The dealership’s newest facility in Sunbury is modeled after the Harley-Davidson’s Juneau Avenue facility in Milwaukee, and is conveniently right off of the interstate and located near the Tanger Outlet Columbus shopping center.
“It’s central Ohio, and there’s a crazy amount of charitable opportunities,” said Doug Kamerer, the dealership’s Minister of Culture. “If you look at the statistics, Columbus ranks in the top few in the country. It’s really just a part of the DNA of the company — things are just done with a sense of community.”
The dealership hosts approximately 127 events annually, which ranges from H.O.G. chapter rides to benefits that extend to military, fire and police personnel. One of its most notable events has been the Thunder Tunnel event during the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. What began as a group of five or six riders on a side street has now grown into a prominent 400-rider turnout lined up on the Broad Street Bridge in downtown Columbus.
“The west side of the bridge ends just before our Columbus store, so it’s really cool to walk out of the store and see all these bikes lined up over both sides of the bridge. When the runners come through, we show our support, rev our engines and high-five all the runners,” said Kamerer. “It gets me every year. We have so many customers that have been affected [by cancer], and it’s a big show of support.”
The event, now in its eighth year, has been so successful that he said other dealerships have caught onto the idea and copied the Thunder Tunnel across the country. “We’re more than happy other cities are doing a similar thing with the dealerships. It’s beginning to cross over to different brands of charity,” he added.
When Bob Althoff, A.D. Farrow’s current dealer principal, took over the dealership, he wanted to change Ohio’s laws regarding motorcycle rider training to make it possible for Harley’s Rider’s Edge program to be used. Althoff hired a lobbyist to revise Ohio’s rider training laws to allow private organizations like A.D. Farrow to offer courses in motorcycle safety. In 2003, the dealership held its first training classes, taught by Sherry Patton and Steve Washburn, who still teach the program today. Almost 5,000 riders have gone through A.D. Farrow’s motorcycle safety classes since they began.
Staff training is also taken very seriously at A.D. Farrow. New hires are gifted an A.D. Farrow kit, which consists of 20 booklets featuring everything from the dealership’s 105 years of history to details on the new Project Rushmore bikes. “It was a Herculean effort to put those kits together, to include everything and to keep them updated. That’s been a joint effort from our marketing and HR departments,” he added. “It’s a textbook amount of material, so it’s a great resource.”
Before its employees can take instructor-led classes at the dealership, they must complete all classes available in their given area of specialty through Harley-Davidson University. Kamerer said active employees have completed a total of 2,867 hours of online education.
“We strive to be the steward of the longest legacy in Harley-Davidson history. We want to bring our knowledge to the millions of perspective riders around the country. It’s through the investment that we make in our employees that will ensure that A.D. Farrow stays at the forefront of the motorcycling community,” he said. A.D. Farrow upholds a commitment to its mission statement and invests thousands of dollars into staff training to follow through with its goals.
In addition to events, the dealership also continues to host groups of students from Ohio State University. The visits typically consist of a dealership tour, a lecture from Althoff, a catered meal and a chance to test out the Jumpstart riding demo.
“Our mission is to grow and serve the motorcycling community. If we’re going to sell you a motorcycle, it’s our responsibility to make sure you can ride,” said Kamerer. “We’ve had a great number of people taking the classes, and for conversion from a non-rider to a rider, it’s the strongest tool we have.”
When Harley-Davidson announced that it would provide free rider training for military personnel through the end of August 2015, A.D. Farrow extended its program through the end of the year.
In 2015, A.D. Farrow saw almost an 8.5 percent increase in total revenue over 2014, and Kamerer says the dealership is on plan for this year’s goals. In July, the dealership’s new bike sales were up 218 percent year-over-year, despite sales in the region being relatively flat. In August, new bike sales followed up with a 29 percent increase in year-over-year sales.
Kamerer explains that the dealership initially sold through its new bike inventory and reached out to 600 dealers asking to buy new bikes from them. From those dealers, Althoff acquired another 100 bikes and sold all of them, resulting in July’s record sales growth.
All in all, Kamerer said the dealership fosters a sense of purpose and pride in giving back to its community. “It’s cool to be a part of this,” he said. “Great stories equal great brands. If it’s done well, that’s what brands are — great stories.”