Geoff and Greg Mellinger are the enthusiasts that own and run Motor Cycle Center (MCC) in Villa Park, Ill. Located 25 miles west of Chicago, MCC serves customers from a large geographic area. They specialize in European motorcycles and deal Ducati, Husqvarna, KTM, MV Agusta and Triumph. MCC is their labor of love that they started it in a garage — their parents’ garage — 35 years ago.
The brothers grew up racing and working on bikes. After they outgrew their parent’s garage in 1980, they became partners in an existing bike repair shop in Villa Park. Two years later the brothers bought out the other partner. Geoff was racing a Husky, and when the factory was looking to add dealers he and Greg quickly signed up. Geoff figured he would win on Sunday and sell on Monday, but it started slowly: It was a year before they sold a new Husky!
The Mellinger philosophy of “Taking care of the service customers” has driven the business to today’s level of success. In the early 1980s the upper Midwest was a hotbed of dirt bike racing, including enduros, motocross and cross country. Geoff was racing every weekend for fun as well as to build the dealership’s business.
On the track the brothers always kept an eye out for any European manufacturer with hot new bikes. Laverda, Bimota and Cannondale came and went. Then, Ducati was added in the spring of 1984, making MCC one of the oldest Ducati dealers in the U.S. And in 1989 they became the second KTM dealer in Illinois. In 1994, they approached a resurgent Triumph and joined its family of dealers. Their commitment to Ducati, Husky, KTM and Triumph has contributed to the success of the dealership and the success of these brands.
In 1991 they moved into their present building and added two technicians and a counter guy. Greg began to specialize in running the service and the parts areas. Geoff continued to handle the books and added oversight of the sales department to his duties.
The philosophy of everyone at the store is to be customer-friendly. Their mantra is to help the customer select the right parts or the right bike, not just to sell stuff. “I’m passionate about selling fun. No one has to buy a motorcycle, so I try and make sure the customer picks the right bike for them. A satisfied customer will return with their friends,” Geoff says.
Bike won’t start? Greg can often diagnose the problem on the phone so you can get going again. Need to get your bike in for service? The MCC team will pick up the bike or give you a ride to the local train station to get home if you drive it in.
Today the store is busting at the seams. There are two people in sales, two in parts, four technicians, one service manager, two part-timers and a full-time administrator. There is a complete machine shop in the service area. Every employee rides and is an enthusiast. Good benefits and treatment contributes to a family feel at the store. This has resulted in low turnover and a knowledge base that is appreciated by their customers.
A swelling base of satisfied customers has contributed greatly to the growth of the business. They use direct mail with good success, and the website generates bike and parts sales, as well as in-store floor traffic. When it can be coordinated with the factory, the demo ride trucks bring out large crowds. The store is a significant supporter of the local Triumph RAT Club. Now that Husky is owned by BMW, Geoff has been known to pack up a Husky and take it to the local BMW club meetings.
Geoff’s racing days are over, but Gregg still carries the flag in motocross racing. On local track days they will transport their customer’s bikes and service them at the track.
In today’s environment, they have to pay close attention to every line item on the P&L as well as inventory and service technician utilization. The most critical component is managing the floor plan for both new and used motorcycles.
The brothers have been through many industry cycles and continue to prosper by focusing on the basics: selling European brands and being committed to creating happy and satisfied customers.