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May 14, 2007 – Snow/ATV performance shop expands

May 14, 2007
Filed under Features

The weekend of May 18-19 will be the culmination of several milestones for snowmobile and ATV performance shop Straightline Performance Inc.
It will be a combination of a customer appreciation event, a product showcase, a 10-year anniversary celebration and an open house for the company’s new digs.
In the past year, a lot has changed at the company, says owner Jason Houle.
There’s been a new emphasis on online sales, as well as changes in the Forest Lake, Minn.,-based home facility.
In February, the company doubled its square footage, moving from a 2,200-square-feet facility to a 5,500-square-feet building. Houle had been looking for a new space for the past two years, and he said he finally found the right property to purchase in the same town.
“We made the move in the middle of the busy season,” Houle said. “We moved in three days and with the help of 45 people. It was pretty massive. We moved everything in one day, and had things up and running the next.” The organizing, he said, has taken more time and is “coming around.”
The new space is self-contained, rather than spread out to places that included Houle’s own garage. Dyno and welding work, which was previously outsourced, is now in-house.
The big change for the company is the services that are offered. In the past, the company has focused on performance products, primarily clutching and engine performance mods. Now there also will be an emphasis on repair and service. There’s also a retail space, complete with a checkered floor and offices.
As for the online operations, it’s also on-site. It’s something that the company has been pushing for the past eight months, Houle said.
Winter Sales
Houle says that Straightline Performance has felt some hit from the declining snowmobile market, particularly with his local business. “It’s dropped substantially,” he said. “Where there’s no snow, there’s no riding.”
Sales to other states and in Canada, though, have kept the company growing. The company has been on a continual growth climb, with a 40 percent increase in sales this past year.
He’s trying some new tactics to bring back the local customer. For the first time, he’s trying local advertising. He’ll target a 30-mile radius with ads for his open house.
Houle also has something else to offer: some novelty. As a asphalt snowmobile racer, he’s hit all the usual venues — and a few unusual. A couple of years ago, he did an exhibition drag race in Puerto Rico, and in April he was a part of another exhibition event on the Caribbean island of Aruba.
In terms of marketing his business, the islanders are not his primary buyers. And even though he did meet a couple of vacationing customers there, that wasn’t his business strategy for making the trip.
“It’s more of a conversation piece,” he said. “It’s press, and it’s something that people can read about. I still get people in here who talk about the Puerto Rico trip.”

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