The oldest Harley shop in Pennsylvania has been run by the same family since 1949.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he large Harley-Davidson factory on Arsenal Road in York, Pennsylvania has been there since the early ’70s. A frequent destination for Harley-oriented groups, the plant offers its ever-popular tours five days a week. Across the street and a half mile down the road is another popular destination that has been around even longer: Laugerman’s Harley-Davidson. Laugerman’s, the oldest Harley shop in Pennsylvania, has been in business since 1949, and has been run by the same family for as long.
“We get a lot of cross-pollination,” says Heather Goodwin, granddaughter of the founder, Lloyd Preston “Bud” Laugerman, and dealership spokeswoman. “If someone is touring the plant and needs a part or wants an accessory, the plant will tell them to go to us. The York County Visitor’s Bureau has a center in the plant and has information about us on display. Also, depending on which way they are going, people will see us on the way to the plant.”
In addition to the normal reasons a touring Harley rider might want to visit a dealership, from buying a souvenir T-shirt to replacing a threadbare tire, Laugerman’s is frequently a destination in itself. People often travel to Laugerman’s just to see the Hall of Memories, a section of the dealership set aside for classic bikes and memorabilia. “We get groups from churches coming with their kids,” says Heather.
The Hall features 10-12 dioramas with a classic Harley as the focal point of each. Each diorama features period clothing, memorabilia and photographs appropriate to the particular motorcycle on display. For example, when a classic flat-track racer is featured, it is shown with racing posters and racing photos showing the bike – or others like it – in action. The displays change frequently, although the two oldest bikes, built in 1913 and 1920, are always on view. Heather adds, “We have had multiple family members in the military, so our thanks to the military, a diorama with World War II uniforms, is always on display.”
Laugerman’s started as a hobby in a garage. “Bud“ Laugerman would work a full day at his factory job, come home to his place in Hanover, near York, Pennsylvania, and wrench on customer’s motorcycles in the evening. His wife, Dolores (Mom to generations of customers) remembers Bud taking everything from wedding rings to television sets in trade and carrying customer’s debt for years. Most customers eventually paid him in full.
In 1949, Bud became a sub-dealer for De Grange, the Harley dealer in York. He bought out De Grange in 1954. Local good will kept the dealership going through the lean years of the 1950s. By 1968, business was much better, and the shop was so squeezed for space that Bud had to move to a larger storefront.
Bud and Dolores’ son Dave started working in the dealership in 1969. He was joined in 1970 by his brother Mike. The company moved to its present location in the fall of 1993, near Harley-Davidson’s Vehicle Operations Plant. Bud Laugerman died only a year later. His loss was felt by both the York business and motorcycling communities.
Mike and Dave continued the business, with the support of their spouses. Mike’s wife, Donna, started running the MotorClothes department in 1987, while Dave’s wife, Denise, came on board in 1989 to head up the parts department. Recently, four of Bud and Delores’ granddaughters, Falecia, Sandy, Heather and Julia, have joined the company and are taking a more active role in the day-to-day operations of the dealership. The plan is for the younger generation to take over completely in a few years.
With a potentially all-female management team in place in the foreseeable future, Laugerman’s will soon join the small but growing number of motorcycle shops run by women. Heather doesn’t think there will be many changes in either the business model or the experience of the customers. “Men and women do things a little differently, but this is still a family operation and all of us – my grandfather, my father, my uncle and the four of us grandchildren – have tried to treat each customer like family.”
Laugerman’s is not only a family tradition for the people running the dealership. There are many people in the area who were introduced to the shop by their parents or grandparents, and who are in turn bringing their children. Some of the older customers have been around almost as long as Laugerman’s has been open for business.
“There are some people who have bought a bike from my grandfather, my father and from me,” says Heather. Under the tutelage of the founder, Bud, all of Laugerman’s management and employees have a strong sense of customer service, and the uniformly positive online reviews from customers reflect this. “We get lots of word of mouth referrals,” she says.
In addition to the mutually beneficial relationship with the Harley plant, Laugerman’s also has a symbiotic relationship with the local HOG (Harley Owner’s Group) chapter. Dave and Denise Laugerman and Heather Goodwin and her husband all participate in the monthly rides and events. In turn, the HOG chapter takes new riders under their wing, “showing them the ropes,” and giving them a comfortable place to learn and grow in the sport. The HOG chapter also helps experienced riders who have recently moved to the area, showing them the best places to ride – and introducing them to Laugerman’s.
The HOG chapter also participates in numerous charitable activities, which reflect well on the dealership and generates goodwill. York is a small town in many ways, and residents value businesses that pitch in to make the city a better place. “Our HOG chapter is a generous group,” says Heather. “They are always ready to step up when needed. For example, they recently adopted a family – the father has cancer.”
Although all these relationships have lessened the need to get the word out, Laugerman’s still advertises. “You always have to advertise,” says Heather. “We still do some print and radio if that seems the best way to do things, but Internet advertising is the best way to reach younger customers. We rely on Facebook and our website.”
The shop advertises specials, seasonal deals and promotional activities on Facebook, and encourages customers to post photographs and comments. As a result, Laugerman’s customers post a considerable portion of the content on Laugerman’s Facebook page. The Laugerman’s website is somewhat bare bones as of this writing, but that will change shortly. A new refurbished, and much more extensive website is in the works, with a launch date set for January.
Despite this foray into the latest technology, Laugerman’s is maintaining its old fashioned values. As Heather says, “We hope and try to be the best, most customer-friendly dealership around.”
100 Arsenal Rd, York, PA 17404
Ph: (717) 854-3214
Aftermarket accessories on order.
Est.: In business since 1949