Cycle Barn Smokey Point
OEMs: Honda, Yamaha, Polaris, Kawasaki and Suzuki
Major Brands: Cobra, Fox Racing, Marsee Motorcycle Luggage, Helmet House, Ogio, Teknic, Alpinestars, Parts Unlimited, HJC, Tucker Rocky, Gerbings’ Heated Clothing and Western Power Sports.
Number of employees: 23
People find all sorts of things in old barns. Old bike enthusiasts dream of the antique motorcycle waiting for them under a dusty blanket. Few people imagine that a profitable business is waiting for them under the hayloft, but that’s where Cycle Barn’s owner, Jim Boltz, found his calling.
Jim started selling Kawasakis some of which are now the kind of serious collector’s items that people hope to find in barns in a wooden barn near Lynnwood, north of Seattle, Wash., in 1972. The barn had previously contained a big machine shop, so making it over into a dealership was not the project it might seem at first glance. It was, however, short on amenities. The bathroom, for example, was in another building, necessitating a cold trudge outside in
In 1977, the owners of the barn sold it, and the building was torn down. By this time, the Cycle Barn business had grown to the point where Jim could buy nearby land and build his own building. He built big. “If you are going to build something, build it as big and as best you can,” he says. “Other local dealers thought we were crazy and would soon be out of business.” Instead, the dealership soon ran out of room.
Over the years, Jim worked to create a “one-stop shop,” a place where customers could come for anything and everything motorcycle, and his business continued to grow.
In 1998, Cycle Barn built another building to contain the dealership on the Lynnwood property. This structure was three times bigger than the previous one, but Cycle Barn was not through expanding. A second dealership at Smokey Point, 26 miles north, was opened in 2000, selling Honda and Yamaha. Shortly afterwards, Cycle Barn Smokey Point added Polaris, then Kawasaki and finally Suzuki, in addition to Husqvarna power equipment. Cycle Barn-Smokey Point is now in a 30,000-square-foot freestanding building easily visible from Interstate 5.
In line with the one-stop concept, Cycle Barn tries to cater to all groups of motorcyclists in Northern Washington State. The area is home to many gentleman farmers and small ranchers who want ATVs and side-by-sides for ranch work and hunting. Some of the best roads in the United States encourage the sportbike and adventure crowd, and there are plenty of trails for off-roading families. “We get a lot of blue collar workers from the nearby Boeing plant,” says Gregg Anderson, general manager. “We have a strong clientele from the area military bases.”
The growth and continued viability of Cycle Barn is due to a strong focus on the core business and on customer service. “Wants, needs and desires we find and fulfill,” says Gregg. “We try to make each customer that comes in the door a customer for life.” The effort has paid off in the many positive reviews posted by customers, who praise the ‘going the extra mile‘ attitude of the Cycle Barn staff, including the four-legged store greeter, Lucy.
One excellent source for customers is the in-house motorcycle school. “We had a customer from England who had trained motorcyclists in England. He didn’t like the way motorcycle training was done here, and wanted to set up his own business. He needed a classroom, and we had a room in our facility,” Gregg explains. “We also provide motorcycles for the program.
“The school means we have excited, motivated new riders coming to our dealership for training every week. On average, we have 20-24 students coming through every week in the summer and 10-12 in the winter, trying to get permits or improve their skills. Washington State Motorcycle Safety Training has been a great program for us, with all the brand-new excitement in the store, all that anticipation of getting a license and getting out on the road. It’s like Christmas every day."
The dealership has found that one of its best sources of publicity is the easily seen building near the freeway, where more than 80,000 vehicles roar by daily. Cycle Barn makes sure that its employees are at the annual Seattle International Motorcycle Show with a large stack of business cards.
However, in its day-to-day publicity, Cycle Barn tends to concentrate on online initiatives. “We embrace social media,” says Gregg. “We are learning to maximize our impact and stay significant.”
The dealership puts out an email newsletter and has a presence on Facebook. The Smokey Point website features online shopping, online OEM fiches and a parts finder. Parts that have been sitting on shelves get moved to eBay.
Financing applications are available online, as are prices for prior year and used bikes. The website also incorporates an extensive resource list, including riding and race instruction, contact information for local bike clubs, online motorcycle forums and nearby motocross parks.
In line with the emphasis on maintaining existing customers, the website includes a customer satisfaction survey, which is taken seriously by staff. All comments are read and responded to as quickly as possible. “We understand that people in our area have lots of choices on how to spend their discretionary income,” says Gregg. “We want to make sure they continue to enjoy spending it with us.
“Our key mantra for serving our customers is: ‘Shop slow, pay quick!’ We keep a lot of knowledgeable staff on hand more than most dealerships,” he continues. “There are plenty of people to help customers at all times. We also have five cashier locations. The goal is no lines, even on Christmas Eve.”
The past five years were very difficult for Northwest dealers, and several nearby dealerships closed. “I believe we have seen the worst of it, but there is still much damage to overcome,” Gregg explains. “The financial holes dug during the down economy are deep and will take many years to fully recover. We had a phenomenal 2012 and are looking for much bigger returns for 2013.
“Cycle Barn has been very fortunate to have a seasoned, long-term staff and management team to carry us through. All of the people working for us are fanatics. We like what we are doing. As Pat Neland, our general sales manager says, ‘I earn my living in a toy store. What could be better?’”