Covering off-road, on-road and everything in between
[dropcap]“W[/dropcap]hat I do best is help find the motorcycle that works for each customer’s type of riding,” says Jesse Avelino, sales manager for Bettencourt’s. Located in eastern Massachusetts, Bettencourt’s has plenty of experience finding the best bike for each rider. The dealership has been in business since 1948 and is now one of the most successful New England motorcycle dealerships.
Dick Bettencourt was a good enough machinist to spend World War II as a toolmaker in the MIT radar lab. He was a triple threat person: good at tool work, organizing people and events, and selling merchandise. When the war was over, he became a traveling salesman for a firm of motorcycle importers. He then took over the family machine shop and started selling motorcycles. For the time, he was considered a high volume dealer – after all, in 1956, he sold thirty motorcycles!
Dick was also involved in racing, first as a competitor and later as a promoter. In the years after World War II, motorcycle racing diversified and riders began to specialize in one form or another of competition instead of trying to do it all. Dick Bettencourt became interested in closed course dirt racing, and was instrumental in setting up a scrambles (precursor to motocross) circuit in New England.
Back at the dealership, Bettencourt became the 86th Honda and the 74th Suzuki retailer dealership in the U.S. Melding his interest in off-road competition with his business, he also started selling what were then the winning bikes in the dirt: CZ, Jawa, Bultaco, Husqvarna, Penton, and Montesa. His organizational ability was part of the reason for his success, and there was always something happening around the shop.
Bettencourt organized Thursday morning off-road rides and an annual Baja ride for customers and friends, as well as trips to Africa and Nepal. Dick and his wife Elaine raised four children, all of whom have raced at one time or another. Two of their sons, Mark and David Bettencourt, took over the dealership after Dick died in 1992. Unfortunately, David Bettencourt died of leukemia several years ago, and Mark Bettencourt is now the sole owner. He continues the family legacy of event organization, enthusiasm and excellent service.
The family atmosphere extends to the customers and staff. Jesse Avellino’s father bought his first motorcycle at Bettencourt’s in 1973. “We have people whose parents and grandparents came here for their motorcycles,” he says.
Bettencourt’s is located in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, one of the more rural areas of what is often thought of as an urban state. For many years, the business specialized in off-road motorcycles, but with the state parks ending access by powered vehicles, there are fewer off-road places to ride locally. Dirt, however, is not dead: there are still places to ride not too far away and a lot of local interest in off-road activities, especially for children. Bettencourt’s partners with an off-road riding school, Planet Dirt, which has a facility a short distance away from the shop and specializes in teaching kids to ride on small motorcycles.
The dealership encourages parents to trade-in small motorcycles that have been outgrown by their own children. The availability of inexpensive entry-level kid’s bikes and a riding school keeps interest in off-road riding alive. “Kids get excited about riding, and parents encourage their kids to ride,” says Jesse Avellino.
Off-road racing is still an important focus, and Bettencourt’s sponsors the New England Motocross series and the Marsfield Supercross. Involvement in motocross racing continues Dick Bettencourt’s legacy, keeps local off-road people involved and interested and effectively advertises the dealership to people who are interested in buying motorcycles, parts, accessories or service.
Many of Bettencourt’s customers are also interested in vintage MX competition – after all, the shop sold what are now classic motocrossers when they were new – and the shop posts links to reliable sources for parts for these bikes, keeping the customers happy without having to devote shelf space to parts for vintage machinery. However, if customers can’t easily get things they need elsewhere, “We make an effort to special order anything we don’t have on the shelves,” says Jesse. “There are big distributors in our area, so we can get things very quickly.”
Even though there are few places to ride ATVs locally, Bettencourt’s does move a surprising number of ATVs, which are sold either to people who have their own private land or people who want to ride out of state. “Our customers live locally and want to buy locally, even if they have a vacation home elsewhere,” says Jesse.
As times and demographics have changed, the shop has been shifting greater emphasis to on-road activities.
A significant percentage of the customers are Honda touring riders, and another large cohort ride Suzuki adventure bikes. The dealership has recently added the Kymco scooter and Lehman trike lines. Many customers are now involved in track days or roadracing.
Bettencourt’s continues its legacy of arranging activities for its customers by sponsoring Boston Moto, the Penguin Racing School and Tony’s Track Days. Links to these schools, the New England Motocross Association, New England Trail Riders Association, and the Suzuki and Honda racing contingency programs are prominently featured on Bettencourt’s website.
The Bettencourt’s dealership has become a hub for on-road activities, as well as off-road events, and street riding customers have as much reason as dirt riders to stop into the store or check the website (www.bettencourts.com) or the shop Facebook page on a regular basis.
Many items of interest to customers are posted on the shop Facebook page, which also features videos of races and bikes on test, testimonials, inquiries by customers and a series of photos with funny captions: “My advice: life is short – buy the damn motorcycle” and “Motorcycle Theft – It’s more common than you think” (with a photo of someone chasing a real, live bear on a motorcycle) are two recent posts. The image of Bettencourt’s as a community center is furthered by the Facebook page, which features comments and numerous likes by customers.
In the next three years, the dealership plans to expand its presence online while still keeping the focus of being a community center for motorcyclists. A grandson of Dick Bettencourt is helping out in the parts department and may become the third generation of Bettencourts to run the shop.
“We don’t want to turn into a big box store,” says Jesse. “We want to keep the focus on the individual customer. Our staff are people who not only ride, but have a lifetime experience in the motorcycle industry. We know what products are available to suit our customer’s needs.”
One customer posted a review that said, “This isn’t my most local dealer, but I’m glad I made the trip. Great experience with these guys.” This sums up Bettencourt’s, which has become one of the largest dealers in New England through good, old-fashioned customer service.
31 S Main St, West Bridgewater, MA 02379
Phone: (508) 587-1701
OEM: Honda, Suzuki, Kymco, Lehman Trikes
Aftermarket: HJC, Joe Rocket,Tourmaster, MSR, Thor, Shoei and Arai