Power 50 dealer’s expansion includes neighboring airstrip
Lakeside Motor Sports keeps finding new ways to get customers into its showroom and make them feel like part of the family. They’re coming to the dealership in Mecosta, Michigan, so frequently, in fact, that in 2016, the store expanded by a total of 34,000 square feet to include a new showroom and service facility.
“We converted the showroom into heated storage for used motorcycles; we built a brand new service facility and then a new parts warehouse,” said Danielle Maneke, business manager at Lakeside Motor Sports. “It’s definitely been our best business move we’ve had so far. Customers are excited to spend more time here.”
The expansions are far from over. Recently, the dealership, located in the center of the state, signed a 50-year lease with an airport across the street and plans to build a brand new boat showroom. The dealership, selected as a 2016 Power 50 dealership by Powersports Business, will maintain the current airstrip and intends to build a pilot’s lounge on the airport side of the road.
The new expansion links to the dealership’s Indian showroom, Lakeside Indian, and Maneke said the dealership has become more of a destination to customers. “It’s a lot more welcoming than our old showroom. We completely outgrew our old space, so now we have more room, and we can actually merchandise, and people want to hang out here now.”
While many people journey to Mecosta to visit second homes and vacation, Lakeside aims to make these customers feel like family, and that approach has not gone unnoticed. In 2016, the dealership received the Small Business of the Year award from the Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce and the 2016 Mecosta County People’s Choice awards for favorite ATV/Motorsports/Boats Equipment, Best Customer Service and Locally Owned Business.
On the OEM side, Lakeside Motor Sports was one of two featured dealerships at the 2015 Polaris off-road dealer meeting as an example of dealerships investing back into their stores.
“The validation is great. It demonstrates that our hard work and our investment in the industry is paying off. Manufacturers and customers alike understand that we’re going to keep moving forward, improving our business and doing all we can to help the community and the customer,” Maneke said.
Business has been positive for the dealership, which added Kawasaki motorcycles and ORVs at the end of 2015. “The line has been received well and has exceeded our expectations. We have a long history with Kawasaki, and it was nice bringing it into our dealership,” Maneke said. “The side-by-side and off-road motorcycles have done exceptionally well.”
Lakeside Motor Sports saw an 11 percent increase in unit sales in 2016. Of the multiple vehicles it offers, the side-by-side segment has seen the most growth in the past 12 months, echoing what many dealers nationwide have seen. “Side-by-sides overall have been huge sellers. Specifically, Polaris probably more than other brands, but we carry them all, and we do really well with them,” she added. “It’s really cool to see it go from an individual sport to something the whole family can ride together.”
Family is a central theme at Lakeside Motor Sports. The dealership’s multiple local and national accolades help show its commitment to the customers. “We treat each customer and each case differently. We really try and put ourselves in the customer’s shoes, try to relate to their viewpoint and try and understand how this is making them feel,” said Maneke.
Coupled with its award-winning customer service, the dealership also offers training programs and monthly events. For the past 18 years, Lakeside has offered a snowmobile safety course, which has been popular in the community.
“The program has been at full capacity; every year people wait for it,” Maneke added. The list to join the class often fills up with eager participants who sign up six weeks in advance. In the warmer months, Lakeside offers an ORV safety course and plans to focus on expanding the program in 2017.
The snowmobile safety course is offered the same day as the dealership’s annual winter open house event, the first Saturday in December. “We’ve been doing it for 18 years, since we opened Lakeside, and it’s a huge event. It’s probably the biggest one-day sale in the state of Michigan,” she said.
While some dealerships have snow open houses earlier in the year, Maneke said the timing is great because customers are in a spending mindset, and they’ve come to expect the annual event. “We’ll start getting calls in early fall asking, ‘When is it?’ and it’s right before Christmas, so it’s a great time for people to come in and get a good deal on their gifts.”
One of the dealership’s biggest events of the year is Snomotion, an August event that brings more than 10,000 people into the store. During the event, the dealership tackles a little bit of everything: sales, demo rides, new sleds, new snow clothing on display, a monster truck show, a freestyle show, snowmobile grass drags, food vendors and a vintage motorcycle show.
In addition to one of the largest powersports unit inventories in Michigan, Maneke says that the dealership’s focus on the customer really makes Lakeside Motor Sports different from others.
“We want the customers to really feel like they are at home. We’re not just a dealership that’s pushing numbers; we want them to feel like part of the family,” she said. “I think that speaks to the customers, and they recognize that and appreciate that they are getting honesty from us. They’re not just a number to us; they’re an actual person.”