Popular pre-owned motorcycle business, Blue Ridge Riders, makes a significant transition while retaining its core values.
Successful businessmen frequently take up high-impact hobbies to help offset the inherent occupational stress, and motorcycles are probably among the top diversions. It’s unlikely, though, that many of them adopt Steve Brown’s strategy: He left a lucrative career (Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at Standex International Corporation in New Hampshire) and bought an entire motorcycle dealership.
Asheville’s Blue Ridge Riders (BlueRidgeRiders.com) was founded by Mike Jones in 2008. Despite opening it during the recession, Jones wound up exceeding his sales goals annually, ultimately growing it into the largest independent pre-owned motorcycle business in the area, and developing a loyal clientele that spans the East Coast and stretches into the Midwest. Meanwhile, Brown and his wife had purchased a second home in Asheville in 2010, eventually deciding to make the move permanent. “I gave my notice at Standex so that I could pursue owning and operating a local business in Asheville and relocate full-time,” says Brown. “My motivation was to escape my very hectic travel schedule and to be able to spend more time in Western North Carolina.”
I knew that I could be passionate about Blue Ridge Riders and feel like a kid in a candy store every time that I had the chance to handle my inventory.”
The Browns’ move fortuitously coincided with a decision by Jones to sell his business and take a break from the long hours of retail sales. As Brown had been an avid motorcycle enthusiast since his dirt bike teen years, it seemed like a good fit. Brown finalized the purchase this past January, forming a closely-held corporation, Journey Motorsports, Inc., in order to own and operate Blue Ridge Riders. As he puts it, “I knew that I could be passionate about Blue Ridge Riders and feel like a kid in a candy store every time that I had the chance to handle my inventory.”
Blue Ridge Riders sells pre-owned BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Triumph, and Custom motorcycles, all of which are serviced and inspected by an on-staff mechanic with 15+ years of shop experience. As a good portion of the dealership’s sales are attributable to repeat business, one key element of the ownership transition was the decision to have Jones stay on as a mentor to Brown so as to ensure that the new owner preserved the company’s core values, which Brown describes as “selling clean, reasonably priced, high-quality motorcycles in a friendly environment, without the added fees and costs charged by other dealers.”
He adds that while he’s hesitant, at least initially, to make too many changes, he has already installed new dealership management software. “It’s to help me track and manage my inventory in real-time, and to assist with quickly preparing transactional documents for customers. I felt the software was necessary to help put the right systems in place to support and grow the business. To benefit our customers, I [also] implemented a 30-day/1,000-mile limited warranty on most of the bikes that we sell, something that very few local motorcycle dealers offer.
“And in the future, I look forward to further expanding our inventory of bikes to choose from, and growing the repair and maintenance portion of the business.”
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