Thunderbird Harley-Davidson: From tent life to high life
Employees at Thunderbird Harley-Davidson in Albuquerque, N.M., are basking in their new digs now that the store’s $1 million renovation is complete, but when the entire store was housed in a tent for four months over a chilly winter, they did face challenges.
In fact, overcoming those outdoor obstacles ultimately has provided the staff with a team-like approach that has carried over into their sparkling new facility that celebrated its grand re-opening earlier this spring.
Thunderbird, a member of the inaugural Powersports Business Power 15 class of dealerships as part of the Scott Fischer Enterprises group, made dramatic enhancements to the building within its existing 27,000 square-foot footprint. After the parking lot was refinished and expanded, the store moved outside into a virtual tent city. The expected 90-day project began in September, with inventory instead returned into the store in January. A host of changes were made inside, including:
• A new entrance and training facility;
• More than 7,000 square feet were added to the showroom by shrinking the service department space, a new customer “refueling station” or café was added, as was a new customer lounge;
• The service department was updated with new bays and lighting, and a new “ride in” service area was created for customers.
• New paint colors were applied and new flooring, graphics and fixtures updated the rest of the building.
Scott Fischer Enterprises partner John Greene operated the Thunderbird store from 2005-10 as general manager, so he had a personal interest in its overhaul.
“The store never had the right layout, particularly for customers. There wasn’t a great lounge area, we didn’t have the amenities,” Greene said.
The Thunderbird staff apparently has become better at its craft thanks to their time spent in the tent.
“The comment that we heard a lot was about how close they became as a team working in that tent, really because it was so much smaller, and they were literally working side by side,” Greene said. “You have to cooperate and get along to make the best of it, or it’s really going to turn bad. They took the high road.”
With the building limited to six technicians and a smattering of inventory during the renovation, staff members capitalized on the challenge.
“It was propane heat and bikes and inventory,” is how Greene described life inside the tent. “The attitude of the staff was really remarkable. They still talk about it. That was really amazing and it did a lot for building our team. The MotorClothes girls in particular had quite the time. Any time you needed a new size, you’re literally running into the store. It was impressive work from that team.”
Greene reports that sales were largely unaffected during the transition. The store’s re-opening has been an altogether different story for the store’s business.
“The response from the staff and the customers has been very, very positive,” Greene said. “It’s the best first quarter we’ve had in that market since 2008. Some of it’s facility, some of it’s the new GM, Sean Delaney.”
And while plenty of upgrades can be seen in the store’s interior, Greene added that the exterior additions were equally important to customer comfort.