Eastside Harley Davidson - Bellevue, Washington

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Eastside Harley Davidson

A Passion For The Road

In the 1980s, Bev Thompson and her husband, Keith, were busy raising a family of five. To get away from it all, Keith bought a Yamaha Virago and he and Bev would ride two up. By the early 90s, the riding became more ingrained in Keith's blood. He mentioned he was thinking about buying a Harley-Davidson, to which Bev replied, "Why do you need a Harley?" His response was not much of a verbal one, but he turned around and bought her a Harley instead.  "Yeah, that was nice... of course it was only hours later when he got himself one," she notes with a smile, and the two have been riding Harleys ever since.

By 1994, the family was grown up and the two, along with their best friend and riding buddy, Darrell Jones, set out on a venture buying the local Harley-Davidson dealer in Kirkland. Today they have two stores, can't keep the bikes they get in stock, and are one of the top sellers of H-D apparel in the United States. Keith's and Darrell's original intention to buy it as an "investment" was soon nixed when Bev (right) fell in love with managing and running the business.

Eastside Harley-Davidson has two locations, Bellevue and Issaquah. The Bellevue store is typical in the design and layout of modern day H-D dealers, while the Issaquah store focuses on the look and feel of a H-D dealer from 20 years ago. "When we relocated the Eastside store it was imperative that we add a shop to cover the overflow from the Bellevue store. "I didn't want any customer to have to wait a long time for service on their bike," notes Thompson.

For the Thompsons, their passion for riding is reflected in their business, and as each year goes by, Eastside Harley-Davidson becomes more and more of a mirror image to their own tastes. "Riding is what we like to do," says Bev.  As with every H-D dealer in Puget Sound, Eastside has developed their niche. In this case it's offering world class tours to various regions throughout North America. Riders can ship their bikes in the Eastside H-D truck to the destination they select from over a dozen rides that are offered each year. In 2000, riders were treated to tours including Baja, Tucson, British Columbia and Monument Valley. The offerings will change each year as they develop the program. "We did this for two reasons" says Thompson. "First of all, I don't want to sell someone an $18,000 motorcycle and watch them park it in their garage. Secondly, we love to ride... so it's a great way to mix business and pleasure."  Winter tours are strategically planned for warmer regions. The oversized semi that delivers the bikes around the U.S. has a double decker trailer and can accomodate up to 24 motorcycles. The tours often sell out early.

Eastside utilizes a full time promotions director, Jon Martin. Martin works together with other members of the staff to create the many promotions the store has on an ongoing basis.  

Recent promotions have included a guest appearance by Eastside endorsed Top Fuel racer Kris Becker (below), a Hog Wash with the Hooters girls (above), a ride sponsored by the dealer to raise funds for families in Kosovo, and an appearance in 1999 from Scotty Parker prior to his retiring from dirt track racing. Today, Martin is working well in advance planning next years statewide HOG gathering - a three day ride down the western coast of Washington state.  

frontpage.gif (152764 bytes)Sponsoring peoples' dreams is something Eastside participates in heavily. The dealership provides sponsorship to The Seattle Cossacks motorcycle stunt drill team, the fore mentioned nitro burner Kris Becker (right), and store employees who are steady riders in the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association .  

Up 'til recently there were few choices for renting Harley-Davidson's in Puget Sound. After straddling the hurdles of insurance liability issues, Eastside is now renting H-D's to customers locally, as well as out-of-towners. In the first month of the program the store managed to keep most of the fleet out just by word of mouth.

There are only a handful of women in Puget Sound that run dealerships on a day to day basis. Bev Thompson recalls the hurdles of being a woman seeking respect in a man's world. In the beginning of ownership, her lack of business and riding background placed her at even more of a disadvantage. But we're talking about a woman who's raised five kids, and there's something to be said for the fact that child rearing experience can be utilized to develop an effective management style. Today, Thompson says she is blessed to have a crew of loyal employees who can run the store with or without her on site.  "I definitely do not do everything around here," she says with a sense of relief. "I have a trustworthy management team I can count on," she says. It was indeed proven the team was up to the challenge last summer when Thompson took an extended medical leave.

Sales of new bikes are skillfully managed by a team of sales people headed up by sales manager Scott Moon. Thompson prefers to use a separate finance and insurance person to wrap up deals, "Because it lets the sales team do what they do best, and that's to sell." As is the case with many dealers, Eastside H-D can't get enough motorcycles. "There are times we have to fill the floor with more accessories because Harley-Davidson can't give us enough bikes, but each year our allocations get higher," she notes.  For those looking for a used H-D, Eastside often has a nice selection in the downstairs portion of the store.  

HoG chapter members are treated to coffee and doughnuts every Saturday morning as well as storewide discounts when they show their chapter card (call the store for more details). The store also has frequent open house and customer appreciation events at both locations to up the ante on savings and gratitude.

For more information visit the Eastside Harley-Davidson website at www.eastsideharley.com

TM/Fall 2000

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