Destination Dealership:Small Market, Major Player

What happens when a nice young woman with a background in retail management meets a nice young man with a degree in aviation maintenance? They get married, move to the country and start a successful Ducati shop.

Bend, Ore., boasting a population of about 80,000 and located near the geographic center of the state, is not where you would expect to find a retailer of fine Italian machinery. Although Ducati motorcycle shops are usually found in hip urban areas and wealthy suburbs, Bend Euro Moto has thrived among the fields and streams since 2005.

Kathy Jo Porter met David Bingham in Seattle soon after he’d switched from aviation maintenance to servicing high end cars. “The Lamborghini shop paid a whole lot more,” Bingham says of his former occupation. It didn’t take long before they got hooked on Ducatis and each other. Next, the couple moved to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, to work at an Italian bike shop, but that didn’t last long. “We had our own ideas on how to run things,” Porter explains.

Bingham had lived in Bend when he was younger, so the couple decided to move there after leaving Idaho. They rented a 1,250 square foot shop and did repairs. Within two years they had enough word of mouth business to be looking for a bigger location. “The timing was perfect, since Ducati was looking at Bend as a market. We wrote a long, pleading, epic e-mail and asked them to give us a chance,” Porter says. Since then, Bend Euro Moto has added Vespa and Husqvarna.

Personable and articulate, Porter is willing to explain at length exactly how Bend Euro Moto beats the odds. She says that a Ducati dealer’s challenge is to persuade the buying public that Ducati does not mean finicky, fragile and expensive. “Ducati has come far with reliability and pricing. Monsters, for example, are economical to run,” she says.

The couple credits a combination of creative marketing, excellent customer service and, of all things, their location for their success. The Bend area actually has an above average number of upper income people, as evident in the nearby Porsche dealership. It also has great scenery, a mild climate and twisty roads, making it a natural vacation destination for Ducati aficionados.

When marketing the shop, Bend Euro Moto capitalizes on this location. For example, the shop buys banner ad space on Ducati enthusiast sites and offers a vacation package, including: plane fare to Oregon, airport shuttle, hotel room, new motorcycle and service for the first 600 miles. “We offer something extra,” Porter explains.

Intelligent use of the Internet gives Bend Euro Moto a broader audience. “If you can’t get the customer to come in, you have to go out and find the customer,” she says. Bend Euro Moto’s Facebook page gives a personal touch to the shop’s online presence. The couple tends an Ebay store in addition to their brick and mortar location. Instead of marking down inventory so it will move, they either post it on their website (which has direct sales capability) or auction it off, often getting close to full retail for the newer items. “If you have desirable merchandise, there is no reason to give it away.”

Another advantage of the Bend location is the small town aura of the store. “We are like family here,” Porter says. “We have a passion and love for what we do. We trust all our employees to give everything they have to every customer.”

Salespeople are on salary. The aim of Bend Euro Moto is not just to sell a customer a motorcycle, but to sell that person the motorcycle that is right for them.

Women now make up more than 12% of new motorcycle buyers, and the couple is passionate about getting more women on motorcycles. They have learned a repertoire of tips and tricks over the years to make the bikes in all their lines comfortable for each customer.

“We are enthusiasts,” Porter says. “We love what we do. I know how I want to be treated when buying, and I do my best to treat customers that way.”

As a result of their devotion to customer service, Porter and Bingham have developed a loyal following that supports them in good times and bad. Posters on Yahoo! Local and enthusiast boards give Bend Euro Moto a five-star rating. “Even if we are having a tough time,” Porter says, “we have an unspoken rule in the shop that we don’t mention how bad things are. Motorcycling is our customer’s escape — that’s what we give them.”

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