Today, Cross Country Powersports is a very successful multiline motorcycle shop. The story of how it began shows that there is no one path to success in this industry. Neither Dan nor Lois Notte, the owners, had ever worked in the motorcycle world before they bought their dealership.
Dan Notte was working in the corporate end of the automotive business and Lois Notte was a paralegal. In 1998, they learned of an opportunity to buy a BMW dealership. Neither was then involved in motorcycling, but they took the plunge — and did well. Their success was due to their ability to quickly learn what customers want from a dealership and provide it without losing sight of the bottom line.
“We have always been an honest dealership,” explained Chris Notte, Dan and Lois’ son, now the general manager for Cross Country Cycle, one arm of the business, and assistant sales manager for Cross Country Powersports, the other arm. “We have a passion for motorcycles, but we also understand that you have to have a balance: the business end and being there for customers. We have been able to find good salespeople, which is very important, and knowledgeable techs. Knowledgeable technicians are a real asset to the store. It keeps customers coming back.”
By 2004, the BMW dealership, located in Metuchen, New Jersey, between New Brunswick and Newark, was doing well enough to enable the couple to take on a Honda franchise, which was housed in a separate building next door. Longtime friend and business associate, Ray Lewandowski, became a partner and continues to help manage the business. Ducati was added in 2006. Cross Country weathered the 2008 storm well enough to start selling Polaris, Sea-Doo, Can-Am, Kawasaki, Triumph, Vespa, Piaggio, Slingshot, Suzuki and Royal Enfield.
In 2018, Cross Country expanded to a second location in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. At present, BMW and Ducati motorcycles are being sold from one Metuchen store, named Cross Country Cycle, and BMW’s are being sold from the Hasbrouck Heights dealership. All other franchises are under the name of Cross Country Powersports, located next door to the BMW/Ducati store in Metuchen. Dan and Lois actively manage all three locations.
Cross Country became known among the local motorcycle community as a center for events, which range from movie nights to sponsorship of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.
“We put on a lot of events at the dealerships — open houses, demo rides. We support racing at New Jersey Motosports Park and sponsor off-road events, like the Pine Barrens 500,” Chris said. “We also sponsor quite a few BMW GS dual sport events. The important thing is getting out there with customers, letting customers see you at outside events. This is the reason we have been successful with the track community — they see we share their passion. The culture changes depending on the brand, but the main thing is that customers like to see you share what is important to them.”
In addition to being where the riders are, Cross Country has a strong presence on the internet. Photos of customers with their new bikes are posted on Facebook and Instagram, and customers who take their own photos are encouraged to tag them with #crosscountrypowersports, so that other customers can see them. Also posted are photos and biographies of staff, promotions and special events. The extensive website has been a lifeline during the present emergency situation.
“We have to adapt,” Chris said. “We are an event focused dealership, but right now most events are not happening. We are learning to keep customers focused in other ways. With our website and social media presence, we have the ability to educate and inform people about new products. We are especially posting more
Cross Country maintains a blog on the website, which is frequently updated. Recent posts include notes on Kawasaki, including the history of the brand and a discussion of its current product line, performance upgrades for UTVs and the considerations involved in buying a portable generator. Customers can go to the website frequently, knowing that there will always be something new and interesting to look at.
The website features extensive notes on purchasing used vehicles and buying accessories for the different powersports vehicles that Cross Country sells. Photos of parts and accessories for current year machines are posted on the website, as are the details of purchase options. Cross country sells a good selection of tools for do-it -yourselfers. The website has a shopping function, so that customers do not have to go to the dealership to get their parts — especially welcome during these unusual times. Service appointments can be made through
In addition to sales through the website, Cross Country maintains both an eBay store and an Amazon store. The eBay store is an excellent outlet for items that are not moving at the dealership. Amazon is a good place to dispose of smaller discontinued items. Both outlets introduce the dealership to a nationwide audience.
One item of importance to Cross Country is being able to provide riding gear and accessories to all customers, no matter what their income level. “We have a helmet wall that goes on forever,” Chris said. “We sell a lot of apparel, and it is important to us to have something for everyone.”
Cross Country works closely with the local riding school, which is an important avenue of new customers. The dealership is involved with both the Can-Am and Honda initiative to assist dealers to provide bikes to riding schools. BMW assists Cross Country to support new riders as well.
“If a customer asks, we highly recommend safety courses,” Chris said. “Customers appreciate that we are here to help. Last year, we had a huge influx of new riders.”
Despite everything that is now going on, Chris is optimistic about the future.
“This year has been challenging, but we are pushing to maintain sales,” he added. “If we look back at January and February, we see that interest in powersports increased. I want to believe that the industry will take off as soon as people can leave their homes. People will really want to be out of the house. A motorcycle takes us out of reality. It is a total escape.”