Hailing from the northern part of the U.S., there seemed to be some type of force on the 37th parallel that kept me in the top half of the country. Being one that always loved a road trip and made quite a few, for some inexplicable reason, I rarely broke through that mystical barrier that would take me south of Kentucky.
I was forced to rely on Hollywood to provide me with cultural and culinary knowledge of the lower half of our United States and from what I could see, the food was excellent and there was something called “southern hospitality” that appeared to be some type of friendliness that was not quite the same in the north.
I had heard a lot about Savannah, GA, and it was rich in American history, so my girlfriend and I decided to spend a week there. I always like to visit local motorcycle shops, and I discovered that Savannah Harley-Davidson would be close by. I contacted them and scheduled a time to stop in.
After enjoying a couple of days basking in the warmth of the sun, feasting on delicious local treats of boiled peanuts, shrimp and grits and an endless supply of peaches, I arrived at the dealership on what was shaping up to be another sunny Georgia day.
First impressions are everything, and pulling into the parking lot I was greeted by meticulously kept grounds and the modern yet relaxed styling of the warehouse-style building. A pair of palm trees and the patina of a classic pickup truck adorned the entrance, almost emanating the feel of an ocean front villa.
Rick Buckley and Ric Peterson are the two Harley-Davidson enthusiasts who own Savannah Harley-Davidson as well as an Alternate Retail Outlet located on River Street in the Savannah historic district and Golden Isles Harley-Davidson in Brunswick, GA.
As I walked inside, I was thrown into a sea of new motorcycles and the interior design and decor made it feel as if I had walked into a Harley-Davidson museum.
Warmly welcoming me with a smile and a handshake was Kim Flenard, the general manager, and right away I began to realize what southern hospitality was all about.
As Kim took me on a tour of the dealership, she introduced me to all of the employees. A common theme began to show through in their business culture. Everyone had a smile on their face, shook my hand and was happy to answer any questions I had.
We worked our way through the parts and sales departments and everything was as clean and organized as I had come to expect by this point. Along the way, she introduced me to Stacy Hartsock, their Riding Academy program manager.
Stacy explained that they have their own complete riding academy range on site and they offer the MSF basic rider course as well as advanced courses. Savannah Harley-Davidson provides all of the motorcycles for the courses and not only does Stacy coordinate all aspects of the program, but she is a rider coach in the program as well. It was easy to see that she is incredibly passionate about riding and helping people develop their own riding skills.
As we walked through the full line of new Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Kim said that the Street Glides and Road Glides are currently the hottest motorcycles. Also on the showroom floor was a limited edition CVO Street Glide, which is one of the more difficult motorcycles to get.
She also said that the dealership has been a Bar and Shield award winner for many years. Harley-Davidson looks at a number of measures for dealer performance and, based on points, awards different levels of the Bar and Shield. The more points a dealership gets, the more CVO units are made available to them as well as the overall volume of motorcycles.
Savannah Harley-Davidson also sells used motorcycles, but they go quickly when they get them. If you’re looking for old school classics, they can sometimes be found there and for sale, too.
The next stop was the apparel department. I was pretty sure I had been in department stores that were not as well stocked. Kim is especially proud of the fact that out of over 600 Harley-Davidson dealerships in the country, they are ranked in the top 10 percent for Motorclothes sales.
This is no surprise, as the friendly smiles continue to abound, and the Motorclothes staff works tirelessly to find the style, size and fit for each individual taste.
Savannah Harley-Davidson is also involved in countless community events, working with Nine Line apparel, sponsoring poker runs and benefit rides and holding on-site events. In addition, they are tightly knit with the local HOG chapter, which has over 200 members and meets there once a month.
Moving on into the fully equipped service department, the dedication to quality was clear. Their accomplished technicians are sent to regular Harley-Davidson training and encouraged to achieve as many certifications as they can. The benefits for the technicians and customers are an investment in the future for Savannah Harley-Davidson.
In what seemed to be a never-ending building, we walked through additional storage areas and then through an overhead door into dedicated wash bays where their Hydro-Techs work their detailing magic.
Another aspect of their business culture is a strong sense of patriotism, so it was no surprise to find out that they store motorcycles for military personnel while they are deployed. They keep them covered and on battery chargers, making sure the bikes are ready to ride as soon as they return from deployment.
All of the employees are motorcycle enthusiasts and most of them are Harley-Davidson owners and dedicated riders. From the offices and through every department, you will find a mix of talent, passion and friendliness that is hard to come across anywere.
Wrapping things up, Kim took me through the upstairs meeting rooms and past a second floor patio that overlooked the riding academy range, all while continuing to introduce me to the staff. As I finished up the tour, I didn’t feel like a magazine editor or a visitor, I felt like a friend.
With such a fantastic experience under my belt, I could only hope to share what has made Savannah Harley-Davidson successful. Smart business, rich culture and a friendly, helpful staff are the biggest keys. This was my first introduction to southern hospitality, and I could not have been more impressed.