Barb’s H-D owner Barb Borowiec began her career in eastern New Jersey, skirting metro Philadelphia, back in 1983.
That was the year 21-year-old Barb Borowiec bought a Sportster at Harley-Davidson of Camden County and every time she came in to make her $79 payment she begged for a job at the small shop. “The owners didn’t ride and they’d say, ‘You’re too young, you’re too small!’ but they gave me a job anyway,” she said. In late ’86 Barb and two others on the staff of five bought the dealership and by 1993 Barb was the sole owner. As she puts it, “and I just kept on trucking!”
Sitting on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Barb’s H-D, (she changed the name to match an airport satellite store that opened in 2005) covers a broad territory that is near Philadelphia’s national sports stadiums and a massive U.S. military base. Barb has incorporated these factors into her perspective, resulting in a substantial expansion of the dealership’s reach and profile over time, while building staff engagement and civic impact.
Barb works with the promotional people for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies and 76ers to bring players, coaches and team alumni to the dealership for events such as the Puckin’ Hockey Party. The athletes come out to ride, and the public—including plenty of non-riders—gain access to the players they can’t otherwise meet. Barb also donates a bike to the Flyer’s Wives Carnival, which the players all sign, receiving high-profile visibility to a broad audience. Pretty smart!
Barb’s volunteer work with nearby McGuire Dix Lakehurst—called Joint Base for short as it includes all five branches of the U.S. armed services—started as a personal mission stemming from the Vietnam era. “It always bothered me, the way our men were treated when they came home. It’s the number one reason I started working with the military 11 years ago,” she said.
As an Honorary Commander she became a liaison between the base, the community and the public. Over time, the personal and business efforts became entwined, bringing the motorcycle and military communities together—at Barb’s H-D. In its 10th running this year, Barb’s Armed Forces Freedom Ride raised funds and awareness for Burlington County Military Affairs and the Philadelphia Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation.
“They shut down the flight line for us and there we are, riding our motorcycles right smack in the middle of freedom!” she said describing the Base, also New Jersey’s second largest employer. Over 1,200 bikes turned out along with generals, commanders, colonels, congressmen, firefighters and athletes for what Barb calls “a big wonderful, patriotic event!”
As for the dealership, there’s no effort left untended including demo rides every day, winter storage (free for deployed service people,) performance engine work, customizing, bike rentals with airport pick-up, and a unique rental program called Decide Your Ride where shoppers test four different models over five hours. The dealership has conducted its Riding Academy for 14 years, an effort Barb calls, “The best program H-D has come up with since I’ve been a dealer.” They taught the Today Show’s Matt Lauer to ride and “D” of Run-DMC took the class, then performed a thank-you concert!
They hold Bagger Days and—get this—even Sportbike Days with a wheelie machine and a sportbike custom show. They take in sportbikes on trade and sell them, too. “We make everyone welcome,” said Barb. “We’re not going to exclude someone because they’re young and on a sportbike.” And, she adds, “I want to be there when they’re ready to get off the sportbike and on a Harley!”
Maybe it’s this inclusive attitude that keeps second- and third-generation customers coming back to Barb’s. “My customer base is really, really diverse. There are no barriers or exclusions,” she said. The dealership is lately seeing more Asian customers and a group of east Indian physicians recently filled up Riding Academy. Barb says Harleys are popular in the Latino community as well. “I don’t want race, gender, age or anything like that to be a second thought for my staff. I wouldn’t be happy if someone walked in and was judged,” she said.
The staff is equally diverse with women in all phases of the operation, not just Motorclothes, and includes a large number of long-term employees, which speaks volumes. Barb is usually quite visible on the showroom floor, preferring to emphasize repeat business and constant activity rather than making sales at a fixed dollar amount. “We definitely sell the quality of the product, but we work with people to get them on a motorcycle they love at a price they can afford.” It’s a no-pressure sales environment that comes right from the top.
In a more recent initiative, Barb is focusing on the issue of driver awareness, inspired by a tragedy in a customer’s family related to distracted driving. “New Jersey has the most people per square mile and it’s the most densely populated state, there are cars everywhere,” she said. “It’s a big issue and bikers have half the chance the car driver does.”
As with other objectives she’s taken on, —and we didn’t even tell you about her lobbying work that turned around New Jersey’s “Blue Laws”—there’s no doubt Barb will make headway on this topic, too. That’s because Barb Borowiec is a sterling example of someone who follows both her heart and her instincts to bring about change and make good things happen for her dealership and its patrons.
926 Black Horse Pike
Mt Ephraim, NJ
856-456-4141, 855-844 BARB