The following report from Powersports Business staff reporter Nick Longworth describes how a local dealership stepped in during COVID-19 to assist a nurse whose motorcycle had been stolen.
As the nation and world continue to fight the onset of COVID-19, a newfound gratuity has emerged as a silver lining for those who work within the healthcare community.
And so when Mercedes Suarez, a licensed vocational nurse at Brookdale Assisted Living in San Antonio had her 2004 Kawasaki 250 Ninja stolen in April, the theft prompted the wheels to turn for one empathetic shop owner.
“I was watching the news and saw the story [of Sauer’s bike theft] like everybody else. Bike theft is never good, and the fact that she built the bike with her dad meant something to me,” said Dave Sears, owner of Alamo Cycle Plex in San Antonio, Texas. “I saw that she was a nurse, and obviously in these times those people are working hard and putting themselves at risk. It was a combination of everything that made me think, how could Alamo Cycle Plex get involved and help out. I commented on the Facebook thread [of the news story] and said if anybody knows her, have her get in touch with me.”
A few well-placed social media tags later, and the two were in touch.
“One of my co-workers texted me a screenshot of one of the Facebook posts about my bike being taken, and in the comments from Alamo Cycle Plex it said ‘if anyone knows Mercedes tell her to contact me directly,’” Suarez said. “I did and we just started talking from there, and he said ‘let me see what I can do.’”
But one hitch had come up since then — police had recovered her stolen bike, which was heavily damaged. Wanting to help keep her original project intact, the shop had its service department look it over, free of charge.
“After I picked it up, he thought it might be hard to fix since it was nearly 20 years old and some parts they don’t make anymore,” Suarez said.
“We said if nothing else bring the bike here and let us do a courtesy inspection and make sure it’s safe to ride. We found it was more than $2,000 worth of damage on a bike not worth that, and came to the conclusion it wasn’t worth putting the money into,” Sears said. “But then I said, let me go back to my original plan. That’s when she came into the store and picked out her new Kawasaki  Ninja… It was the perfect next size for her, comparable to what she had, and sticking with the Kawasaki family.”
“It was a real low feeling, being down after the bike was taken… I really wanted to find my bike, and was pretty adamant about posting about it everywhere. At first I was kind of skeptical [of Sears’ offer] and talking to everybody. I was a little paranoid it was too good to be true. I’m really shy and have a hard time talking to people, but I was hopeful. Then we started talking and I got really excited,” Suarez said, carefully choosing her words through gaps of silence. “When Dave offered me the new bike it went from a really low feeling to ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ It was such a drastic change. As soon as I took it home, it was insane. It’s the same bike, but newer — like the long lost brother of my old bike. It’s so great, I love it.”
Suarez said she plans to use the bike to see family, which offers an hour-long commute there and back to stretch her wings a bit.
“I plan to ride it until I can’t anymore — until I’m sick, or 80, or something. Even then, someone should put me in a sidecar so I could keep riding,” she said.
Despite a minority assertion on social media that the donation could have been a publicity stunt, the public reaction toward the dealership has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The community has been wonderful. You always get one person who accuses you of a publicity stunt. There’s going to be good publicity, of course, but that wasn’t our intent,” Sears said. “It’s a good story at a time when we’re not having a lot of fun with what’s going on in the world. It doesn’t matter what you do — somebody’s always going to knock it. But for us, there’s no negativity in doing this.”
The feel-good story has since received regional attention, including an interview with radio station KJ97 San Antonio’s Jaime Martin, illustrating that the power the positive attention during tough times can be beneficial for any dealership. No doubt offered with noble intentions, the goodwill generated by the donation has been invaluable — offering the opportunity for a win-win scenario.
”[Publicity] wasn’t our intent, but it’s little things like this that we want to do in our community, and there’s nothing at all negative about that,” Sears said.
Although its showroom has been closed to the public since mid-March to help curb the spread of COVID-19, Alamo Cycle Plex has been able to keep a steady stream of business with a pick-up service model as well as parts sales using a curbside pickup model.
“We’re also doing sales by appointment-only, and internet and Facebook traffic has been up 300 percent since the shutdown,” Sears said. “People are saving money since they’re not going out, and the ones that land at home are looking for some toys to play with while they’re social distancing. We’ve been managing through this and feel fortunate to be able to do it… When this is all over, I think the powersports sector is going to boom because people are going to be more appreciative than ever to ride. I think there will be a new appreciation.”
Doubling down on philanthropy, Alamo has also opened its doors to become a drop-off point for donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used to fight the onset of COVID-19 throughout the community.
“I saw a friend of mine in Colorado doing it at his dealership, and thought what a great idea and that’s something we should certainly do for our community,” Sears said. “In conjunction with collecting PPE, we’ve also gone out and donated multiple sewing machines now — just little things we can do to push a positive message into a community going through a tough time.”
In the future, Sears said Alamo Cycle Plex might consider a more hyper-local approach to some of its marketing techniques.
“We really want people to know that we’re a family business and a part of the community,” Sears said. “We want you to shop here — Amazon won’t support your Little League team, and they won’t be doing stuff like this, either.”