Location means a great deal when it comes to retail success, and Savannah, GA is an excellent location for a dealership. Not only are there several military bases nearby and a lot of local riding groups, but Savannah is also on the route to Daytona, which is three hours south. Big crowds come through for Bike Week and Octoberfest.
“We are the last stop on the way to Daytona,” says Bob Millsap, the operating partner and general manager of Savannah Motorsports. “We have a big party in March, with food, to welcome folks on the way down. It’s our biggest event of the year.”
Savannah Motorsports describes itself as a “small, hometown dealership,” but actually attracts enthusiasts from all over the Southeast thanks to the shop’s can-do, friendly attitude. One five-star review on Google states, “This place has great service! I live on Edisto Island, SC and this place is definitely worth the extra miles because they go the extra mile. I’ve talked with other customers and found quite a number of them ride extra to have their work done there. I could go on, but you should see for yourself, give ‘em a try.”
The dealership has a 4.6 rating on Google and a 4.9 rating on Facebook. One way the shop’s rating is achieved is through monitoring reviews and responding to most. Even negative reviews receive an offer to make things right with the customer. Prospective customers can see that the shop is making a sincere effort.
The ownership group behind Savannah Motorsports started by operating car repair facilities, with Bob Millsap as one of the top employees. However, Millsap is, and always has been, a motorcycle enthusiast. He started riding motorcycles from an early age and used to race. In 2015, Millsap’s company bought a motorcycle dealership in Bristol, VA, which sparked the idea that he might be happier selling motorcycles. That August, a group connected with the company, rode to Sturgis for Bike Week.
“We hung out with guys from the Indian factory,” Millsap explains. “When we came back, Indian offered us a dealership if we would locate at one of several points. We decided to go with Savannah, GA. I asked to be made a partner and the owners agreed. The next step was to find a location. We found a motorcycle dealership that had recently closed and we purchased the building in late 2015. It was just about a turnkey operation and we were able to open our doors in February 2016.”
Savannah Motorsports was solely an Indian dealer for two and a half years. The store took on Slingshot in 2018 and Polaris in mid-2019. Slingshot is often sold as a motorcycle alternative and serves the function of widening the customer base, but Polaris off-road sales opened up an entirely new cohort of customers. Those new customers included the county, who uses Polaris Rangers for its highway crews. Other buyers include law enforcement, farmers and construction crews. Catering to commercial users opened up the possibility of long-term maintenance contracts, which cushion the ebbs and flows of retail sales.
Both Royal Enfield and Zero electric motorcycles came on board in July 2022, further widening Savannah’s circle of customers. Millsap says Zero motorcycles appeal to commuters and street riders because “you can ride almost year-round in this climate.” Royal Enfield has proven to be a good beginner bike. Many people also buy one as a second bike for a household. “It’s a cool-looking bike with a great price point,” he says. “It has also proven to be reliable.”
About 20% of Savannah’s customers are women, who are a growing segment of the dealership’s customer base. Many women buy Royal Enfields, but Millsap says Indians are also popular with female customers. Men between 25 and 60, many of whom are blue collar workers who want an American-made bike, also opt for Indian models.
Savannah gets a lot of its customers through internet leads, and the internet is a strong part of the business in general, according to Millsap. The shop offers test rides and gives customers the option of signing up for a test ride on the website. Millsap also reports good sales of accessories and apparel, and has not had a problem with internet competition cutting into his business. “Our brands attract customers,” he says. “The quality of the product is better than the aftermarket.”
Savannah has an interesting approach to online parts ordering. Instead of posting a list of parts, Savannah’s website asks online customers to describe what parts they need or what they want to do. The parts department can then suggest options based on what is available. The contact page also clearly states that if a part is not in stock, “we will be happy to order it for you.” This approach starts a conversation with online customers and increases customer satisfaction.
Millsap is excited about the number of new riders who started walking through his door since 2020. “After the pandemic started, the outdoor world exploded, and we had a surge in new riders,” he says. “It was a wonderful experience seeing so many young, new riders after a period when the age of the average motorcyclist was going up. Our business is continuing strong and the uptick in younger riders is continuing.”
Savannah Motorsports also has a good relationship with the Motorcycle Safety Institute, although it doesn’t sponsor a school for various reasons, it does spend a lot of time with new riders.
“We want to make sure that they are comfortable on a bike and that they choose the right bike for their experience,” Millsap says. “Indian introducing the Scout was really good for us. We have found a lot of our new customers buy Indian Scouts, and then sometime later, come back and buy a larger machine.”
In addition to a shop newsletter and a Facebook and Instagram presence, Savannah sponsors regular demo days, poker runs, rallies and parties. Charity events are a big draw too, with a major emphasis on helping fallen riders and their families and programs to assist veterans. These events regularly draw several hundred people and cement Savannah Motorsports as a community center, and for the military bases, something of a USO.
“We are based on being a small, hometown dealership,” Millsap reiterates. “Part of our vision is that we welcome all riders and help and support our community. We treat our customers as friends. We are founded on relationships and thrive on repeat business and referrals. We found a fantastic opportunity here and plan on continued growth and giving back to our community.”
6 Gateway Blvd. W.,
Savannah, GA 31419
OEM: Indian, Polaris, Slingshot, Zero, and Royal Enfield
Aftermarket: Western Powersports and HardDrive
Number of employees: 14