Destination Dealership: Be a Destination

A Utah H-D Dealer Blends Local Heritage With Corporate Identity and a Green Approach

We’ve all grumbled about the mega motorcycle dealerships, the “garage mahals,” those monuments to glitz and gimmick bereft of soul or authenticity. Most are replete with all the sterile ambiance of a big box store.

If that’s been your experience, take a trip to Lindon, Utah, for a breath of fresh mountain air and a distinctly nuanced approach to the H-D dealer phenomenon. Visit Timpanogos Harley-Davidson, “Timp’s” for short, a shop rooted in the gritty industrial age that spawned the American made motorcycle and the American biker.

Named for the stately mount Timpanogos that forms its backdrop, Timp’s H-D couldn’t be more closely aligned with the grassroots of manufacturing in America. In fact, it’s very structure pays homage to precisely that.

See, the dealership’s original owner, Dave Tuomisto, was mere days ahead of the wrecking ball that destroyed the Geneva Steel plant, a firm fixture and decades-long employer in that part of Utah. Tuomisto’s goal was to preserve the structural elements — riveted and latticed beams, flooring, trusses and roofing — of the old factory for use in the new facility across the road. Timps honors the town’s industrial roots in the sheer physical presence of the massive architectural components incorporated into the dealership’s new building.

“It began as a way to save some Utah industrial history and combine the great American motorcycle with a great American industry,” Tuomisto says. This, of course, was not affected by a late-2009 change in ownership, either, says operations manager Tony Dawe. “The only change is in the ownership. The staff is the same, the store and building are the same, we have the same management team.”

Along the way, the reclamation snowballed into an overall green approach incorporating aspects such as large front windows that provide daylight while reducing electricity use. A full 70 percent of the materials used in the construction of Timp’s were recycled from the steel mill and other area locales.

This might lead you to think that using salvaged materials instead of buying new helped cut expenses, too. Not so. “It costs more green to be green — $16 million, in fact,” Tuomisto says.

Getting H-D corporate approval was not an easy process, Tuomisto adds, but he persisted and prevailed. “It’s the only environmentally friendly building approved by Harley,” he says proudly. The staff was pleased when Willie G. Davidson stopped by to compliment the effort as construction neared completion.

People coming into Timp’s for the first time are so interested in the building they sometimes neglect the motorcycles. “They look around and ask, ’What did this place used to be?’” Tuomisto says. But Timp’s staff doesn’t mind, as they point out the distinctive features of the building’s construction and some of the vintage sign collection. “The building itself has a story to tell about the area’s history and its people, the pioneers whose toil made a difference,” he says.

In recognition of those who continue to handcraft iconic American metalwork, Tuomisto enlisted sculptor Jeff Decker, a friend whose studio is nearby, to provide the Joe Petrali bronze at the dealership’s entrance. The work sits on a base made from a counterweight, once part of a crane that was used to harvest granite for BYU’s Mormon Temple. “I think the Church would love to have it back,” Tuomisto adds.

But that’s not going to happen nor are any of the other reclaimed materials going back to their former places. They’ve found a new home. “I think you can take something out of a landfill and turn it into a thing of beauty. This building shows that we’re conscious of our environmental footprint and we hope to inspire others to take responsibility for theirs.”

In Rust We Trust

Building green doesn’t mean building lean. Recycling used materials actually takes way more time and effort than buying new ones. It costs more, too. “We saved things we could never have afforded to buy new,” Tuomisto says.

Running just ahead of Geneva Steel’s wrecking crew, rescued materials included steel beams and trusses, brick and riveted lattice columns, all of which were incorporated into the dealership’s structure. Many doors and knobs came from Geneva’s offices, along with windows and wood framing, and the dealership’s handsome wood flooring was the original roofing material of the old mill — and it was three inches thick, no kidding. Reclaimed lighting fixtures from Geneva’s railroad tracks were used in Timp’s eatery, Marley’s Grill, and, yes, the water tower came from the mill, too.

Other structural parts are from an old Salt Lake City Coca-Cola plant and an Ogden, Utah, military base. There’s even a truss from the Ogden train depot dating from the 1870s.

The issue with all of these rich, historic parts and pieces is that they must be evaluated for proper function, then engineered and tested to operate safely in their new roles, adding a distinctive feel without a doubt, but adding cost as well.

What you get when you’re done is authenticity, not “faux” reality. “The sound resonates, it has the acoustics of a factory,” Tuomisto says of the dealership’s ambiance. And that echo of a former industrial powerhouse only adds to the rugged, hands-on aesthetic that we motorheads appreciate.

Six Acres of Hospitality

Motorcycle dealerships of this magnitude don’t skimp on amenities. Timp’s appreciates the customers that come through their doors and have built in plenty of conveniences and luxuries to prove it.

There are flat screen TVs and recliners in the customer lounge, and showers if you need to wash off a layer of road dust. Some of the screens show scenic area rides while others offer Doppler radar forecasts for long distance riders, along with Internet access. You can watch while your bike is being serviced, if that’s why you happened in, and if you get hungry, mosey over to Marley’s Grill for sliders, fries and frozen custard. You can dine outside on the patio, too, if the weather is agreeable. Timp’s also rents bikes, they have plenty of bike storage space, and they operate the Rider’s Edge classes in their own classroom and riding range. There’s a party deck, a concert venue, tons of merchandise and apparel and, yes, even motorcycles.

There’s an ongoing pet project, too: One section of the building’s service area is dedicated to customizing wheel chairs for handicapped children — including painted flames and chromed bolt-ons.

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