Destination Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Washington

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Where F-U-N is king

It's a Tuesday morning in July when I visit Tacoma's Destination Harley-Davidson. The store had just won three Sound RIDER! dealer survey awards. Judging from the comments on the various submissions, it's obvious there's a certain customer loyalty going on here.

Every Harley dealer in Puget Sound has their own niche. Some make an impression selling custom bikes, others offer a range of tours across the United States. At Destination H-D you won't see 5,000 square feet of customs, nor brochures for tours. What you will see are a lot of satisfied customers. Just what is it that the store focuses on as their niche?

"Fun," says owner Ed Wallace. "It's that simple.  Our customers have a good time when they come here and keep coming back," he notes.  

For Wallace, putting together social events for customers is a key element to building the clientele and keeping it.

Saturday is the day of the week for the most fun at Destination H-D. You can drop in in the morning and pick up coffee and doughnuts, by noon there's something hot cooking and if you stick around through the afternoon you'll get a shot of live music and partake in the evening barbeque. And that's what happens every Saturday, rain or shine. Or how about snow or shine as I experienced last winter, when I arrived to a parking lot full of snow and Harleys.

Then there's a monthly theme party, and quarterly there are customer appreciation events where the store closes in the early evening and reopens a while later for a big bash.

Wallace's background was with PACCAR, where he was a General Manager in the Kenworth Truck division. So where did the change come in to buying a motorcycle franchise? "It was something I could do together with my family, it's a passion and it's a great product," he says.

Wallace bought the Tacoma dealership in 1995, then took over the Silverdale location in 1996, opened a store in Beaverton in 1999 and the latest expansion is into an online store, The Roadstore , where you can buy your H-D clothes and accessories on the web. As you sit in Wallace's offices there are blue prints across every wall. Looks like there's going to be a remodel?  "This is the remodel we're working on for Beaverton," he says pointing to one wall, "This is a proposed remodel for the Silverdale store," he says pointing at another wall, then tapping another blue print he points out, "This is the remodel for Tacoma." The Tacoma plans call for an additional store to go in next door to the existing one, and for a park with a barbeque and picnic setup to be placed between the two buildings. 

Destination Harley plays a role in the community as well. They are a sponsor for the AHDRA drag races each year, contribute to the Cossacks sponsorship fund and work together with Downtown H-D and Lynnwood Cycle Barn to present the Thunder Ride each year in August.

"Harley-Davidson makes 25 models of motorcycles. When you buy one it's a personal choice that speaks to you. It's fun for people to express themselves through their motorcycles," says Wallace. There's that word again - Fun. Our interview is ended when a customer requests to speak to Wallace. The reason? He wants to thank him for selling him his motorcycle. As we know from our survey, customer satisfaction runs high at Destination Harley-Davidson and here was just one more example the day I dropped in.    

Tom Mehren/Summer 00

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