A family with 100 years in motorcycling – and one bona fide superstar
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]o much of experience these days is speckled with the same corporate logos, the same restaurants, the same highway markers. The landscape often looks so homogenized it’s hard to tell where you are.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to find a place like Tramontin Harley-Davidson/Honda in Hope, N.J. No, it’s not housed in a historical building or part of an urban renewal project; this dealership’s history reaches back to the bright, early days of American motorcycling, touting a family connection to Ernest “Red” Tramontin’s first motorcycle shop in Clifton, N.J., established in 1915. That fact allowed Tramontin H-D to pop the champagne in celebration of 100 years of motorcycling for the family in 2015, a milestone few can claim.
Red Tramontin started Lexington Cycle Shop as an Excelsior-Henderson dealership. He sold and serviced bicycles, too. An avid rider, Red died in 1928 from injuries sustained when a car driver turned left in front of him (some things never change) leaving his widow Pierina to run the shop. It was an endeavor she took to with gusto aided by her son Arthur, a.k.a. Bub, and daughter Gloria. Tramontin became an Indian dealership at one point, and at one of the factory dealer meetings back then Pierina was the only female shop owner present. She sustained the business through the Depression until Bub took over full-time at just 16-years-old.
Bub learned every aspect of the business, from sales to parts to mechanics. In 1947 the business became Tramontin H-D, still located where Red’s original shop stood. Today, Tramontin is the oldest Harley dealership in the state of New Jersey with 68 years in the Harley-Davidson fold.
By 1973 Bub had found a piece of property near the Pennsylvania line where he enjoyed riding and decided to open a second shop there, in Hope, N.J. The area was quite rural then, in fact Route 80 wasn’t even open yet. Bub’s son Bobby, who had started riding at the age of four and later traveled the east coast racing the half-mile circuit, was charged with running the new shop while his father kept up the original shop. “We call ourselves a destination dealership,” said Bobby.
If you ride to Tramontin H-D from points nearer New York City, your stress melts away with every mile going west, as the road opens and there’s room to breathe. The shop is ideally located – on the edge of both the Delaware Water Gap region and Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains resort area – for spectacular three-season riding.
In 1995, Bub closed the original shop, concentrating efforts on the Hope location. He had also represented Honda motorcycles for decades so that came along to the Hope location, too. “We didn’t get into this business for the money, there wasn’t any,” said Bobby grinning. “It’s our sport, it’s our hobby and it’s our passion – and we were lucky enough to make a living at it.”
Bobby calls his general manager, Nancy Duthie, “my whirl-wind” and rightly so. Nancy planned the 100th anniversary celebration in October 2015, and fondly remembers Bub who passed away September 2014, just two weeks before his 95th birthday.
“He was one of a rare breed, a born and bred rider,” she said. “He came to the shop every Saturday and would greet people at the front door. I thought it was important, to remind people of the family legacy.”
Nancy is a rare breed herself: a female GM at a Harley-Davidson dealership. She worked at Bergen County H-D then San Diego H-D. “But I’m a Jersey girl,” she said, about returning home. Starting in marketing for Tramontin, she also filled in as operations manager before becoming GM, a position she’s held for 10 years. “The tradition and longevity of the Tramontin family was unique to my experience,” she said.
But don’t think it’s easy for a woman to earn the respect necessary to do this job. “They see my blonde hair and assume I don’t have a brain,” she said laughing. “Then they realize, yes, I have a head on my shoulders! I’m there now but it was a learning process.”
Nancy’s style of management is different, too. While Bobby was old school, Nancy is the total opposite by being very hands on. One example: when she started at Tramontin, prospective buyers weren’t allowed to sit on the bikes or demo them, something she changed right away. “It just wasn’t appropriate,” she said. “If you’re going to spend that kind of money you need to sit on the bike, you need to ride it.” Sales bumped up right away.
She also admits to being very picky about employees, putting the focus on customer service and insisting her people have the same perception. “I think people are born with a people pleaser attitude, you don’t teach it.” The crew she’s assembled is a cohesive one, too. “I do right by them and they do right by me. I get 110% and it’s awesome.”
Tramontin H-D is not a mega dealership – and the preference is to stay that way. Nancy says the shop’s approachable proportions help them maintain that warm and fuzzy atmosphere, that sense of belonging. “I see the bigger shops, some of them are like malls, but here we know our customers’ names and we treat them like family – because that’s what we are.”
Part of Tramontin’s success is in creating a comfortable place where customers feel at home, something that’s becoming ever more rare in our world. In this case, it started with Red and Pierina, was passed on to Bub and Gloria, and continued to the third generation with Bobby.
“Motorcycling has been the joy and love of my family as long as I can remember,” said Bobby. From the look of things, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Gloria Tramontin Struck 90 and nowhere ready to quit riding
Any telling of the Tramontin family’s motorcycle history would be incomplete without a few words about Gloria, Bub Tramontin’s sister and an inspirational fixture in American motorcycling today. Gloria started riding at the age of 16, not out of desire, but because her brother insisted. Once on two wheels she took to the sport with great enthusiasm venturing far and wide on her own, an uncommon occurrence for a woman in the 1940s and ‘50s. An intrepid rider all her life, she celebrated her 90th birthday during the 2015 Sturgis Rally and naturally she road her Harley Heritage there from her home in Clifton, N.J.!
Gloria became a Motor Maid in 1946 and has ridden to the organization’s annual convention ever since, no matter where it is; Oregon, Texas, New Mexico, even Canada. She marks 70 years as a member in 2016.
But the facts of this lady’s riding exploits, as remarkable and impressive as they are, don’t compare to her authenticity, her kindness and her approachability. Wherever she goes people flock to Gloria for pictures and hugs. When asked about her solo riding adventures in the early days she said, “I always acted like a lady, and I was treated like one.” And that holds firmly true today. Lady Rider? That absolutely describes Gloria Tramontin Struck.
Read more about Gloria Tramontin Struck at: http://bit.ly/1OLfy0v