Some shops are blessed by a location in a tourist town, others by decades of family heritage or acres of land they can turn into moto heaven. But what if you’re a just a guy who got into the business more by luck than by planning, and you did it because you simply loved motorcycles? Can shops like this make it in a tough world?
Of course they can, because the very best motorcycle shops have their genesis in an avid pursuit of the subject, and New Castle Harley-Davidson is proof of that. The dealership, located for the last 28 years in rural western Pennsylvania, near the town of New Castle, operates on one basic principal: no gimmicks! The shop sells at MSRP and, “even if you don’t buy your bike from us because you cut a deal down the road, we’ll still ask for your business and hope you let us service it,” said owner Bill Bomberger. Bill, locally infamous for riding green-painted bikes, exemplifies the racer’s enthusiasm of no guts, no glory in spades. “You have to be an enthusiast and treat the customer right. We all ride here,” he added, speaking of his staff.
An avowed motorcycle nut from an early age, Bill was working at the local motorcycle dealer in Greensburg, Pa., when he was still in high school. “I dug Harleys so much and just loved motorcycles,” he said. A few years later he was operating a custom shop for a friend who did plating work when he heard about an old time mom and pop Harley shop in the area whose owners were looking to retire. “It was the absolute right time,” he said, “just a few months after the buyout from AMF and there weren’t many rules or regulations.” Still, the Motor Company put Bill through a rigorous screening process, wisely mindful then as now of how they’re represented.
New Castle H-D opened in January 1982 and is still located in the same physical space of the original shop, though expansions to increase showroom and storage space have occurred, and neighboring properties on both sides of the shop have been absorbed. Even so, New Castle H-D is conservative in size and those space constraints mean you won’t find regular happenings at the shop — another aspect of the “no gimmick” stance.
But if you’ve ever met Bill Bomberger, you remember. Bill isn’t quiet, circumspect, or anything close to that — he’s Type A, all the way, and 100 percent hands-on in the shop’s operation. That is, unless he’s gone racing, a deep-seated passion that has led him AWOL on countless weekends over his many years as a Harley-Davidson dealer. Bill’s mania for racing is a fact that has fueled New Castle’s passion and kept its employees and customers engaged over the years.
New Castle campaigned a team in the original AMA Twin Sports class in 1989, ’90 and ’91, and continued to race Sportsters through the 1990s, even when the class was taken over by NASB/Formula USA. When Buell sent their new Lightning model racing, the factory contacted the dealers that had been running 883 teams and asked them to also sponsor Buell teams. That was a given for Bill, who had been one of the first three dealers ever to sell Buell motorcycles, in 1985-86 — that’s almost a decade before Buell was taken into the H-D family.
“I met Eric on a dealer cruise, and he had pictures of the RR1000,” said Bill, who admitted to being hooked on the bike then and has carried the Buell brand at New Castle through the years, racing Buell teams as well. “That was cool,” he said. “We were in the first Buell Lightning race and also the very last one.” It’s a testament to both his personal preference and the H-D heritage of taking your products to the track to prove their mettle.
New Castle’s loyal, riding staff includes service manager Dave Carothers, a 22-year veteran, lead tech Bill Cantolina who’s been there 23 years, and three other techs with over 16 years each. “You have to have people you can trust to run the shop,” said Bill, “or it would be impossible to go racing.” To garner that loyalty, Bill picks up the tab to take many of his employees to the V-Twin Expo and other shows. “I want them to feel involved in the industry, not like they’re just working a job,” he said. An active HOG chapter is based at New Castle, and Bill has been known to let Pittsburgh Penguin tickets go unused just to go Hog Bowling with the club. At this shop, loyalty flows both directions. Bill is also in his second year as president of the Western Pennsylvania Harley-Davidson Dealer Association — another way he keeps pace with motorcycle industry happenings.
Bill remains in awe of legendary Harley dealers like Don Tilley and Ray Price, people who got involved in the business because it was a personal passion, not necessarily the best way to make a living. “You know, I go to the dealer meetings and see guys like that, and think to myself, ‘Man, there’s Don Tilley! That’s so cool!’” Bill said. Funny thing is, after participating in Harley-Davidson dealer events for almost three decades, Bill’s becoming one of the old-timers he used idolize.
Sure, a successful shop must be run with a sharp eye on the till, but it’s the owners who are fully engaged, whose passion trickles down to energize the entire staff along with everyone who walks in the front door. They not only are successful, but — here’s a concept — they also have the most fun. Added Bill, “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” And it shows.