A Destination in Deadwood, South Dakota
To be successful, especially in retail, a shop needs an edge. Even with the friendliest service, the most reliable mechanical work and the quickest turnaround, competition is stiff and consumers can be picky. So with an eye on retail success Todd and Lore Ksenych not only located their motorcycle shop in the destination town of Deadwood, S.D., they also aligned themselves with a recognizable company name and a historic American motorcycle.
The Ksenychs already had a thriving manufacturing company in Watertown, S.D., called Custom Fabricators, Inc. when Todd bought his first vintage Indian about 30 years ago. As Todd worked on restoring the bike he met Jerry Greer, owner of Jerry Greer’s Indian Engineering in Stanton, Calif., a company long known in vintage circles as a source for Indian parts and information.
The more Todd learned about Indians the more involved he became, and due to his firm’s manufacturing capabilities he began working with Jerry to produce some of Greer’s components. In the early 2000s one of Todd’s major clients went away about the same time Jerry was looking to slow down, so it seemed like a logical progression for the Ksenychs to buy out Jerry’s company name and remaining inventory. They chose to operate as Jerry Greer Engineering, leaving out the “Indian” to avoid any potential issues.
“Jerry had developed the catalog, that was a big bonus,” said Todd. “And he had the name out there. We just had to finish the job to get the parts made.”
Like most worthy enterprises, it wasn’t quite that easy but over the next 14 years Todd and Lore more than doubled Greer’s parts line. In addition to what Jerry offered they filled in the gaps by engineering and manufacturing both common and more elusive reproduction parts for vintage Indians (and nothing at all for current models!) They make leafspring frontends, wheel hubs, inner primaries and much more; parts that Indian owners have long needed for their vintage bikes but simply couldn’t find. Todd knows this from his own experience. “You might find a used part but is the structural integrity there?” he said.
The parts from Jerry Greer Engineering are U.S. made with many of the same materials as originally used, though as Todd points out, materials are better now than they were then. And components are finished in cadmium plate, chrome or Parkerized as originally made. For example, they use stainless spokes on their wheels but the spokes are cadmium plated, offering the strength of steel and the proper vintage finish, deftly combining “brand new” and “authentic.”
How extensive is their inventory? “People need to find their own frame and engine or roller. You have to start there if you want it to be a vintage Indian,” said Todd. But other than those major items, Jerry Greer Engineering has everything else an owner needs to restore a vintage Indian and keep it running. Though they don’t supply engines they do rebuild them, along with other components that wear out, such as brakes and hubs. With an in-house machine shop and a staff that includes engineers and mechanics, it’s the kind of approach vintage bike owners appreciate. “The whole idea is to get that bike back on the road again,” said Todd.
The Ksenychs didn’t have – or need – a showroom for their business in Watertown, but it was the proper next step for the motorcycle shop and they started looking for a place in 2014. Opening an Indian dealership was considered but they ultimately chose to stay independent. Explained Todd, “This way, we can set our own pace and rules. We don’t have to worry about sales quotas or deal with corporate oversight.”
Being riders and South Dakotans they were well acquainted with the wild-west tourist town of Deadwood near motorcycling’s iconic rally town of Sturgis. When they came across a 1936 warehouse there that included an accessible lower level to house and organize inventory, they saw the potential and a deal was made.
Their small team worked furiously over six months to ready the shop and showroom in time for last year’s 75th Anniversary Sturgis Rally. They chiseled walls, added galvanized steel, opened up the ceiling to expose original steel work, and kept plenty of windows up front to let in natural light.
Originally two separate buildings that were later joined into one, the showroom takes up one half and the workshop fills the other. The center section houses offices and a small collection of Indian artifacts and collectibles – many of which were Jerry Greer’s. A video of the manufacturing facility in Watertown loops in the showroom so customers can see how the parts are made.
Most people don’t see the lower level where parts inventory is kept. It’s a wonder of order and organization that’s impeccably clean. A computerized control system helps manufacturing keep pace with customer needs. “We are both the wholesaler and the retailer so we can manage production as needed,” said Todd.
The retail shop has proven to be quite a draw. As it turns out, bike owners don’t mind bringing their bikes in for work and hanging out in Deadwood for a few days. The showroom also provides a platform to exhibit completed restoration work and further develop that side of the business. They do repairs and maintenance as well, lace and true wheels, and keep the shop’s lifts full of vintage Indians in various states of progress.
Lore can say that with confidence because she’s currently working on her own restoration project. She’s building a ’48 Indian Chief bobber using mostly original parts, though she’ll concede to a new paint job. “I think I’ll add a little bling to it,” she said with a grin.
This and other current projects can be seen on the shop website along with finished projects and the entire parts line. You’ll also find parts gathered up into separate catalogs for each model and year – a useful resource and valuable reference tool. “We want people to have the information,” said Todd. And the parts to keep those vintage Indians on the road, too.