No time like now to add a second line
Indian Motorcycle of the Twin Cities was the first dealership to be prospected by the old Kings Mountain, N.C., ownership group of the iconic bike. And while Polaris Industries plans to grow Indian’s dealership base well beyond the dozen or so active retailers as it prepares for the 2014 relaunch of the Indian brand, the St. Paul-based dealership figures to flourish with the brand.
Arturo Welch, co-owner of the St. Paul-based dealership along with his mother, Kathy, has used an impressive mix of sales savvy and patience to see his store thrive since its 2009 opening. Welch was familiar with the ebbs and flows of the industry, so he didn’t need the Great Recession to introduce him to those challenges. He began with an 800-square-foot Ridley dealership in 2002, and grew that into a 6,800-square-foot building that sold Royal Enfield, Titan, PCW and CFMOTO.
But when the Kings Mountain crew turned to the Welches prior to contacting any other dealerships to sell their then-newly-acquired Indian Motorcycle brand, Arturo figured the time was right to become a monobrand shop.
“We were the first dealership to be interviewed by Indian,” Arturo said. “I had had my foot in the door since 2005, right before Polaris, John White from Crazy Horse Motorcycles and Kings Mountain started bidding. Kings Mountain won the bid, and we ended up being the 13th store to open. We bought the dealership a month after we were told things were going to get worse before they got better.”
But if location is everything, the Welches landed sitting pretty. Only their parking lot and a street separates the dealership from St. Paul Harley-Davidson, and both sit alongside Interstate 94.
“We strategically bought this building so that we would be set up next to a Harley dealership. Capitalism at its finest,” Arturo admits.
And with Indian Motorcycle of the Twin Cities adding Triumph to its lineup, those two buildings now house the three oldest brands in the business.
“We’re extremely excited about adding Triumph,” he said. “We strongly feel that it will be a great fit for our location and for a buddying up of two completely different brands, one starting in 1901 [Indian] and one starting in 1902 [Triumph] set up right next door to 1903 [Harley-Davidson]. I think we’re the only Indian dealership set up next door to a Harley-Davidson dealership. That’s what Kings Mountain wanted all their dealerships to do.”
While the Triumph addition is big news for the east side of the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin, it wasn’t a piece a cake to get the point.
“This was the third time we tried to pick up Triumph,” Arturo said. “First we were told yes by Triumph, but no by [financing]. Then we got our financials in order and they said yes, but Triumph said no. So with the new Triumph executives in place for North America, we tried again. It worked out great. I had talked to other OEMs, and when other people said yes, I waited. I didn’t want to mix lines.”
One thing he did want to do, however, was add to his staff. With Triumph he’ll be able to add to his staff of four full-time and three part-time employees.
“I’ve realized that you can have all the money in the world to hold the dealership together, but it takes the right people to make it successful,” he said. “I think we have just that.”
And what about that dealership next door? After a year of feeling each other out, they grew into amicable competitors.
“It started out a little rocky, yeah,” Arturo laughed. “But within a year, they were using our parking lot for motorcycle safety training and we got something very nice in trade, so we can service their customers when they’re overflooded in the summertime. Worked out great.”
With some stellar product coming down the pipe, more strong years appear to be ahead.