An open-air showroom and open for business
Nelsons Speed Shop aiming for early 2013 move into new building
The Sno-Motion event at Nelsons Speed Shop in Greenville, Mich., annually gets snowmobilers thinking about — and buying for — the upcoming season. With snow hauled in for the late August celebration that features Snocross, freestyle riders, vintage grass drags and, this year, lawn tractor races, it’s become one of the most popular dealership-sponsored snowmobile events in the industry. But this summer, even dealership owner Jack Nelson had some hurdles to climb.
“Between the fire, the 94-degree weather we had that weekend and last winter’s lack of snowfall, you couldn’t hardly put it on and have worst things against you,” Nelson laughed.
A June 22 fire gutted the dealership, rendering the structure and its contents a total loss. But the annual Sno-Motion affair went on as scheduled. It’s all part of Nelson’s determination to bring the dealership up from the ashes for the second time in his career. He also rebuilt following a 2001 arson fire.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team (NRT) announced in June that it had completed the initial investigation of the most recent fire at Nelson’s.
“At this time the agencies have completed the investigative work at the fire scene. Due to the extreme level of fire damage, a definitive cause has not been determined at this time. Due to the lack of a specific accidental cause being identified, the possibility remains that the fire was intentionally set. The investigation is continuing,” stated an ATF news release.
Nelsons, meanwhile, had hoped to be in its new building prior to the first snowfall. Instead, the engineering and layout plans encountered some issues, so Nelson is now hopeful to be back indoors by January or February, in plenty of time for Snow Check.
“Amazingly the retail sales are very strong,” Nelson said. “Things have been rolling along very good considering we’re working out of three mobile trailers. People have been supportive and our sales have been surprisingly strong.”
Nelson admits the hiccups encountered in the rebuild haven’t ideal, “but we’re moving right along. We wanted to have it built and be into it before Christmas, but it’s looking to be about a month beyond that.”
The building will be a little less than half the size of its 50,000 square-foot predecessor.
“The showroom has been outdoors since we re-opened for business in July. We have wide-open air conditioning at this time of year. We’re working our computers and phone lines out of three trailers, and the service department is now in two warehouses that weren’t touched by the fire.”
Because the outdoor showroom has to contend with the elements, Nelson said sales of clothing and accessories have slowed, simply because those items can’t be displayed.
The Polaris 800s, Ski-Doo Renegade and Yamaha Nytro and Apex have sold particularly well, at Sno-Motion and beyond.
“Attendance was down about 20 percent at Sno-Motion, but the people that attended were serious buyers. It was a really hot day — perfect for a lake weekend. We were pleasantly surprised at the turnout, especially for the conditions. It went off without a hitch and a lot of folks were appreciative that we put it on.”
Nelson saw strong sales of sleds during the event, with purchases of clothing and accessories lagging. “With the lean winter last year, people weren’t ready to buy new jackets or helmets. We did sell a lot of oil and hyfax.”
As for the upcoming season, Nelson likes the hopeful outlook being taken by his customers.
“The diehards are hoping for a great winter that we didn’t have last year,” he said. “They think we’re going to have it this year, and they’re the ones that supported us. Things have been pretty upbeat and positive.”