In motorcycle retail, as well as in real estate, it is location, location, location, and The Brothers Powersports multiline dealership has a most excellent location in Bremerton, Washington, the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, situated in the Northwest corner of the continental United States and full of recreational possibilities.
The Olympic Peninsula is a huge temperate rainforest crossed by well paved curving roads. The spectacular scenery ranges from old growth forests to coastal lighthouses. Inland, there are challenging trails for the dirt bike rider. The Brothers Powersports has been helping motorcyclists enjoy the varied opportunities this area offers for almost 50 years.
Joe Nilsen came back from the Pacific after Japan surrendered, only to be met with a proposal from brother Carl. He wanted them to go into business together as appliance dealers, and a store was soon opened in Bremerton. They learned of the availability of a Tohatsu (an early brand of Japanese motorcycle) franchise in 1963. Honda sales started in 1965.
Joe and Carl retired in the early 1980s, and the business is now run by Jeff, Carl’s son, and his nephew Brian Nilsen, both avid motorcycle enthusiasts. In the late ‘80s, Brothers Powersports became the first Ducati dealer in Washington state. Can-Am came on board in 1988 and Yamaha was added in 1990. Brothers Powersports also sell Honda power equipment, Yamaha power equipment and Honda marine products, such as outboard motors.
The Olympic Peninsula to the West is not the only attraction in the Bremerton area, however. There are off-road riding areas, lakes, more twisty roads, and the Cascade Mountains to the East. “The best off-road area in the state is 20 minutes away,” says Brian Nilsen.
Seattle, the nearby big city, has a cadre of motorcycle commuters and urban bikers. Many people commute by ferry, and motorcycle riders pay less, never have to wait in line and are first off the boat. “A lot of people buy bikes due to the ferry,” says Brian. There is also a large Navy base in the vicinity, and The Brothers makes a special effort to cater to the military market.
Jeff and Brian Nilsen say that the key to their success is to only hire motorcycle enthusiasts. They have worked hard to build a culture around the dealership, and sponsor weekly rides during prime season and a variety of on- and off-road events, including customer appreciation sales and Ducati Days. “We try to do one event a month,” says Brian. In January, Brothers Powersports holds a VIP event with racers signing autographs on the same day as the Seattle Supercross. The event is carried live on a big screen at the dealership.
Brothers also sponsors a race team, which is very important to the managing duo. Under the guidance of Todd G, Race Coordinator, The Brothers sponsor competitors in all phases of off-road racing. “We have always supported racing, says Brian. “Ryan Villapoto, now a multitime Supercross and National champion, is from nearby Polsboro, and used to ride for us. We sponsored him until 2004. We have found that racing sells bikes and is a great advertising tool. People want to do business with people who support their passion. We also work with Mike Velasco, a performance tuning wizard. He gets crated engines from all over the world.”
Despite the emphasis on off-road racing, Brothers does not neglect touring riders. “We get people from all over who are touring the Olympic Peninsula. We want to be available on the spot for them,” Brian explains. “It’s mostly tire changes but we want to get them back on the road as fast as possible.”
The Brothers’ racing and community building efforts provide a lot of good publicity for free. “Word of mouth is the best advertising,” says Brian. But the dealership also engages in a variety of marketing ventures. “Direct mail reaches a lot of people. We keep our costs down by sending mail to folks who are close by. We sort by zip code – and don’t waste money on outreach.”
Newspaper advertising is limited to farm equipment, such as generators. “We also do a little TV if we can get a deal.” Sponsoring races at the local motocross track brings in business. In fact, Jeff and Brian are involved in a community initiative to establish a new racetrack. “We have been working on this for years,” explains Brian. “It’s planned as the Circuit of the Northwest, a multi-use road racing and MX course. It’s now in the funding process.”
The core of The Brothers’ business is of course sales, and they use their website effectively as a sales tool. A virtual showroom displays their large inventory by manufacturer, further subdivided by type of vehicle. Large buttons invite the viewer to value a trade online, apply for financing, get a quote or schedule a test ride. The website also features quick links to sales merchandise and used vehicles – and a list of every single OHV park and racetrack within
Although the Internet is a great sales tool, sales can be lost if customers come in to check out apparel and accessories – and then buy the item on the ’Net. “We have a big sign in the dealership, ‘We Match Internet Pricing,’” says Brian. “The sales staff is trained to detect and positively deal with people who are planning to buy over the Internet. You have to engage the customer. Most stuff we sell is price bracketed, so someone shopping the online is going to pay what we are selling for anyway.”
Brian points out that the sales process for apparel is very different from the sales process for parts. People who want parts generally know what they want and expect the person behind the counter to provide the appropriate item for the application. The Brothers provides fast turnaround times on special orders and promises to locate hard-to-find items for customers.
On the other hand, people who are looking for clothes are more interested in a “shopping experience.”
“The best way to sell apparel is to have friendly apparel-specific staff,” says Brian. The Brothers provides a wide range of brands to choose from.
Brian says that he truly likes coming to work every day. “I love the camaraderie and family atmosphere that we have created. We constantly try to improve our processes and train for the ultimate result – not only satisfied, but HAPPY customers!”
The Brothers Powersports
5205 1st St,
Bremerton, WA 98312
Number of employees: 25
OEM: Honda, Yamaha, Ducati,
Can-Am, Honda Marine, Honda
Brands: Klim, Fox, Shoei, Shift,
Firstgear, Alpinestar, Arai
Images by The Brothers Powersports