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Indian Motorcycle St. Paul and Twin Cities Indian

From the beaches of North Carolina to the land of 10,000 lakes, Tim Sutherland learned to adapt and succeed with his dealerships.

Since he was a kid, Tim Sutherland dreamed about living at the beach and having a motorcycle store. Sounds sweet, right? Well, he’s probably not the only kid who had that dream, but he’s one of the few who achieved it.

It began in 2004. After 15 years of managing automobile dealerships, Sutherland and his brother David opened a small, used car business south of Myrtle Beach. The building they’d rented was bigger than they needed, so Sutherland went knocking on doors looking for something to fill the space. To his surprise, the dealer development manager at Victory Motorcycles took a chance on them, granting them a Victory dealership.

Tim Sutherland and Lloyd Greer

“He told us we’d sell 14 bikes per year and we agreed on that,” Tim Sutherland says. Within the first 30 days, the shop was out of motorcycles, and within six months they were a top 10 Victory dealer. A dream had been fulfilled for the time being.

That dealership — Coastal Victory and Auto Maxx — carried on happily the next seven years or so, with Sutherland handling the bike side and David managing the cars. Sutherland’s wife, Sondra, handled the title work and accounting across the board, in addition to her full-time job, and that was the entire team. In testament to the Victory brand, Sutherland admits he wasn’t a great mechanic, but he didn’t have to be. Victory motorcycles were essentially bullet-proof.

The exterior of Indian Motorcycle St. Paul

That said, attention to detail was present in all aspects of the small shop, and Coastal became the only Victory dealership with a 100% customer satisfaction rating. It also helped to have a major bike rally twice a year right outside your front door. Myrtle Beach Rally brought thousands of riders each spring and fall to the Carolina coast and bike week accounted for 80% of Coastal’s annual sales.

By 2011, Victory was making in-roads in motorcycling, but the brand wasn’t setting the world on fire. “When Arlen Ness got involved with Victory, that’s when we started seeing more customizing and more brand acceptance,” Sutherland says. Like several others, Coastal had been designing and manufacturing aftermarket Victory parts, also adding custom work to the shop’s capabilities. This finally justified the hiring of a mechanic, and Hot Vic became the custom branch of Coastal Victory, soon gaining recognition among Victory riders and at Polaris corporate.

The exterior of Twin Cities Indian

Coastal and Hot Vic were actually responsible for the introduction of the Victory Magnum in 2015, a big wheel bagger based on the Cross Country and aimed at Harely-Davidson Street Glide riders. See, Coastal had been getting unpainted bikes from the factory, replacing the 18-inch front wheel with a 21-inch, adding custom paint, amping-up audio and other upgrades. Coastal’s Hot Vic Cross Country sold like crazy!

“We became the number one Cross Country dealer in the nation,” he says. Then, perhaps coincidentally, the year after a factory rep had quizzed him thoroughly about his custom Cross Country platform, Victory debuted the Magnum model. Sutherland was not deterred; he regarded the move as a nod to Coastal’s customizing ability, and then he stepped up the game with an even bigger front wheel, louder audio and more.

It was during a Myrtle Beach Bike Week that Sutherland first introduced himself as the local Victory dealer to Lloyd Greer of Lloyd’z Garage. Greer had been on the event circuit with his mobile dyno-tuning rig and was becoming known for Victory R&D and performance upgrades.

Sutherland and Greer realized their respective companies shared a vision. Greer’s performance ability was an enhancement to Sutherland’s product. It was a cooperative friendship that eventually drove business when Greer’s mobile tuning unit moved to Coastal Victory during subsequent bike weeks.

When Sutherland and Greer were both invited on the Hot Bike tour in 2015, the Victory Sutherland entered had Greer’s performance parts in it, representing the beginning of their “Pretty Fast” collaboration. “I make ‘em pretty and Lloyd makes ‘em fast!” Sutherland explains.

The Lloyd’z Garage race team

Coastal quickly became one of Greer’s best customers, buying and installing his performance parts, branded under Lloyd’z MotorWorkx, until they eventually took over his dyno-tuning road show, too, allowing Greer to focus on performance parts production.

If you’re keeping track of the time frame, you’ll know that around 2012, Polaris had acquired the Indian brand. As a leading Victory dealer, Coastal threw its hat in the ring to become one of the earliest Indian dealers. They moved to a larger building, renaming the dealership Coastal Victory and Indian. The business was growing quickly and Sutherland encouraged Sondra to finally give up her other job, but there was much more to come.

The first model year for Indian was 2014 and the brand had immediate impact. More dealerships opened and the media paid attention, but there were growing pains in manufacturing. As a result, Polaris discontinued Victory in 2017.

The transition was difficult for Victory dealers and, after a decade of investment, devastating for the Victory aftermarket. Sutherland told his friend Greer, “You and I are nobody now. We’ve got to go back to shaking hands and kissing babies.”

An attitude adjustment was definitely in order. The Indian customer was not the Victory customer. “Myrtle Beach bike week taught me a lesson,” Sutherland says. “For 10 years with Victory, from 2004 to 2014, I’d line up the trade-ins when bike week ended and 95% of them were metric bikes. Now, 19 of 20 trade-ins for new Indians are Harleys! The Indian guys are the Harley guys. Indian has pushed quality across the board. If you ride a Harley, you are riding a better motorcycle now because of Indian.

“H-D didn’t really feel the heat from Victory, but Indian is different. I don’t claim to have created this theory, but I repeat it. Victory was a great product, but Indian is a great brand.”

Meanwhile, another Sutherland/Greer business partnership started in 2018, when several things happened simultaneously. An opportunity was presented for Sutherland to phase out his ownership at Myrtle Beach and the flagship Indian store in Charlotte, North Carolina. Greer came in as a partner in Charlotte and Sutherland managed the transition, counting on the solid record he’d built in Myrtle Beach. Lloyd’z Garage was born then, as the service department in Charlotte.

“Some dealers look at service as a necessary evil. We don’t,” he says. “That’s why we branded our service department. Lloyd’z Garage is not a separate place, it’s a focus on performance and the aftermarket business.”

Having weathered the pandemic, the Charlotte store was clicking along and Myrtle Beach was wrapped up, but things were getting set to change once again. As longtime fans and friends of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, Sutherland and Greer had opened Lloyd’z Garage at the Chip in 2020, where they’ve stayed booked solid for performance upgrades during Sturgis Rally week. Then, Sutherland learned in December 202 that the top 10 dealer in St. Paul, Minnesota, had retired and turned in the franchise.

“It was minus 15 degrees and the roads were solid ice when we first visited St. Paul, but we had two weeks to make it happen,” he says. And they did, selling the Charlotte store in the process. Most recently, in July 2023, they opened Twin Cities Indian in Rogers, Minnesota.

“That’s where we are now — the same number of stores, but no debt,” Sutherland points out. “I had $500 in the checking account when we opened the Victory dealership in Myrtle Beach. We’ve come a long way!”

While St. Paul isn’t exactly the beach of Sutherland’s childhood dream, the path there was serendipitous, especially for someone unafraid of change. The lessons he’s learned are worth passing along:

  • “We look at every department as a potential profit center. At one time, we didn’t think we could afford to have that extra employee to handle finance, insurance and warranties. But we’d been leaving money on the table by not offering those aspects. Now, our stores have all the different departments, almost as separate entities that stand on their own.”
  • “New is easy. Used is way more difficult. We learned how important pre-owned can be as a profit center. It’s not easy searching for the bikes or having the capital to buy, but we learned there’s value in that.”
  • “Customizing matters. Guys like us played a part in Victory’s success by making Victory cool. We kept the brand alive, allowing Polaris to bring Indian into the market. If Victory had been a complete failure, there’d be no Indian today.”
  • “To do the kind of numbers it takes to be a stand-alone dealership, you better have a niche. We attack that from the performance side of the business.”
  • “Something I learned when I worked for Rick Hendrick: Value your people. They are so important to your success.” To that point, as they bought the Minnesota stores, Sutherland and Sondra offered their daughter, Sara, who’s been their chief financial officer, and Amanda Bramble, their marketing manager, a slice of ownership. “They are two strong people we never want to lose.”
  • “You learn more around the lunch table at dealer meetings than in the corporate sessions.”
  • Sutherland and Greer take the position that other dealers are not their competitors, and they’ve invited dealers to gather for round table discussions. Their philosophy is: Work together, grow together.
  • Keep it fun. “Lloyd and I are not two rich old dudes who had a pile of money. We started with nothing; we’re enthusiasts. That’s where it starts, and it’s something we can’t forget in our dealerships. It’s adult Christmas when a person buys a motorcycle, and you have to treat it that way.”

Indian Motorcycle St. Paul & Lloyd’z Garage
2967 Hudson Rd.
St Paul, MN 55128
(651) 228-7620
www.indianmotorcyclestpaul.com

Twin Cities Indian Motorcycles & Lloyd’z Garage
20700 Rogers Dr.
Rogers, MN 55374
(651) 867-1901
www.twincitiesindianmotorcycle.com

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