Wendy Epstein, the owner of Mission Motorcycles, located South of San Francisco, may not have done it all, but when it comes to motorcycles, she has done a lot. A professional road racer in the 1970s, Epstein is possibly the only woman to have finished in the top 10 in an AMA Superbike National.
She financed her racing efforts by working in dealerships, starting as a parts person and eventually teaching herself mechanics and office procedure. She was hired to work in the Mission Motorcycle office, bought the shop 15 years ago and has been successfully running it ever since. Wendy is a friendly, engaging person, but clearly likes to compete. When she is not knee deep in the retail wars, she may be off racing vintage motocross.
“I knew one of the owners of the business wanted to retire,” Wendy explains. “And I positioned myself to buy him out. I thought, If I am going to work this hard, I might as well own the place.” Mission has always featured Honda, but the shop added Yamaha in 1992 and Kawasaki in 1999.
The big news at Mission is the dealership is going green. In the next few months, Wendy will start selling Zero electric lightweight motorcycles, made in California 60 miles south of her dealership. The street-legal Zero is a good fit for her locality. Many of Wendy’s customers are daily short distance riders, and the area is known for being environmentally-conscious.
Wendy states that her challenges are the same as the average male owner of a dealership except for one. “I’m too short for these tall motorcycles!” she laughs. However, her experience in working at most of the different positions at a dealership has given her a leg up as an owner. Wendy went into the business with a ground-up knowledge of what to expect and how to deal with it.
For example, a challenge for any dealership is to attract and keep good staff. Since Wendy has worked at most of her staff positions, she knows what to look for in prospective hires and what to expect from her employees. “I feel I’ve achieved that: I am very pleased with the people who work for me. We work as a team.”
Another challenge is to keep customers energized, interested and coming through the doors. Wendy has a different event happening every Saturday and sponsors the Top of the Hill Motorcycle Club. Although the club is a branch of the Honda Riders of America, it is open to all brands of freeway-legal motorcycles. Wendy makes sure the club is especially welcoming to newcomers.
Wendy uses her website, www.missionmotorcycles.com, not only for advertising purposes, but also as a sales tool. Customers can purchase parts, accessories and apparel online and have the dealership ship their purchases to them. Customers can also create a wish list and ask friends and family to view it before they go birthday or holiday shopping.
Mission Motorcycles also helps the local community by providing bikes for triathlon and marathon marshaling. Wendy states that helping out with this type of event probably sells few bikes, but has beneficial returns in the good will of her neighbors and the community at large.
Consumer Internet sites, such as Yelp.com, have numerous positive postings about Mission Motorcycles. “Honest and helpful people who love to talk about bikes … When I was racing, the parts department was my go to point…” says one customer. “Very nice sales staff, no pressure, willing to make adjustments to make the bike fit the customer,” stated another. Wendy often checks these sites to gauge where she stands in the local community.
The economy has impacted Mission Motorcycles, as it has impacted every other retail business, but Wendy, who never has been one to back down from a challenge, feels the problem is less the economy and more people’s attitudes about the economy. “People are afraid to take risks. I plan to remain positive, plan for the future, and keep it all as fun as possible. That’s our mission statement: To help every customer to have fun on a motorcycle.”