The Great White North

Iron Block Harley-Davidson of Adams Center, N.Y.

be fooled by the New York part of this dealership’s address. Adams
Center is nowhere near New York City, and it has little in common with
the city that never sleeps. In fact, Adams Center is about 35 miles from
the Canadian border and skirts the eastern edge of Lake Ontario. Can
you say, “lake effect snow”?

Considering the climate, you’ve got to wonder what it’s like to operate a
dealership in a locale that might be called, um, weather challenged.
“What do you mean?” asks general manager Chad DeShayes in a deadpan
tone. “We don’t think we are. We’re used to winter, and we know how to
deal with it — It snows a lot and life goes on.”

Now there’s a practical attitude. Along with efficiency, it’s the
hallmark of Iron Block. The shop opened in September 1985, (meaning its
25-year award from the Factory is near due) and was originally housed in
an old Studebaker dealership. Owner Erik Dunk got into the business
because he was an enthusiast. “He answered an ad in the paper looking
for someone to open a Harley dealership in the area because there wasn’t
one,” DeShayes says. DeShayes’ mother, Claudia, is married to Dunk,
making this a family business.

And that’s where the efficiency aspect comes in. Iron Block’s current
facility, constructed in 1999, covers 30,000 square feet, but the entire
staff numbers about eight. “Erik is the owner but he’s the service
manager, too,” DeShayes says. “And he works every day. How many owners
can say that?”
At Iron Block, “We all do everything, from answering the phones to
running the cash register to sweeping the floors,” DeShayes says. There
are no prima donnas. “They wouldn’t last long,” he adds. “Our staff is
so small, everyone’s like family.”

So what do they do to thrive as a business during those long winters in
the great white north? “Sell Harleys,” DeShayes says matter-of-factly.
No, they don’t sell snowmobiles, just Harleys. And, he adds, they have
an active storage business, not to mention plenty of service work
through the winter months thanks to the expertise on tap in their
high-performance department, which is equipped with a state-of-the-art
dyno. Plus, as everyone knows, it’s during the downtime that bikers
customize their rides so they’re ready for the next riding season.

Iron Block has another ace in the hole, too: Ed’s North of the Border
Museum of the North Country. Named to counterpoint Pedro’s South of the
Border — that bastion of excess built to trap tourists on I-95 in South
Carolina — Ed’s is part motorcycle museum and part stronghold of
American industrial implements. It fills the second story mezzanine of
the dealership and includes some fine examples of rolling H-D history
and memorabilia, along with machinery of all kinds, arrowheads, local
hockey lore, toys, mining and blasting apparatuses, and other artifacts
of local industries that made nearby Watertown a bustling industrial
city at the turn of the 20th Century. In fact, portions of Watertown’s
historic and now-razed Iron Block Foundry — the dealership’s namesake —
call Ed’s Museum home.

Turns out, there’s a lot of history in this part of New York State. One
of the most significant battles of the War of 1812 was fought less than
10 miles away at Sackets Harbor, a massive shipyard and center of
military activity in the upper St. Lawrence Valley at the time. “Erik’s
like a history professor. He can tell you all about it,” general manager
DeShayes says.

“Most people come into the shop any way, and after they’re here they
discover we have a museum,” he explains. “Since all the proceeds go to
Hospice of Jefferson County, we usually guilt them into tossing a few
dollars in to go up and have a look around,” DeShayes says.

Iron Block is also close to Fort Drum, home of the U.S. Army’s 10th
Mountain Division, which can trace its roots back to that battle at
Sackets Harbor. Today’s troops are more likely to fight in armored
vehicles than ride the four-legged kind, providing another arena of
involvement for Iron Block. “We help those guys out every way we can,”
DeShayes says. “We like working with them and appreciate the sacrifices
they make for our freedom.”

The shop also offers the Fly & Ride program and has an active H.O.G.
Chapter that sponsors such events as a chili cook-off and Mardi Gras
party. The first ride of the season takes place in late April, and you
can bet everyone looks forward to it immensely. Great rides leaving from
Iron Block H-D lead to the Thousand Islands, the New York Finger Lakes
region and the Adirondack Mountains.

So just like North woods pioneers of earlier times, Iron Block H-D
follows a similar formula of ingenuity, flexibility and practicality.
And like those stalwart trailblazers of yore, Iron Block prospers.

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