“Variety is the spice of life,” as they say. It is also a key element of not only surviving but flourishing in tough markets. Vetesnik Power Sports in Richland Center, Wis., and Vetesnik Mad City Power Sports in Madison, Wis. are dynamic proof of that.
Starting with a 1,000-square-foot shop offering Buick and Pontiac automobiles and Honda motorcycles in 1974, the family-owned enterprise has adapted to changing market and economic conditions.
“That original shop we purchased from Bristol’s was one of the first Honda stores in the state. In those days, we sold about 100 new units a year,” co-owner George Vetesnik, Jr. said.
By 1980, the business expanded to about 9,000 square feet in facilities across the street from the original location. In the 1980s, John Deere lawn and garden equipment was added to the dealership, the powersports product lines were expanded, and eventually the automobile sales operation was phased out.
In the 1990s, the product line continued to broaden with the addition of Polaris, Yamaha and Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP).
By 1999, the enterprise made a huge commitment with construction of an all-new sales, service and warehouse complex totaling about 54,000 square feet a couple of miles east of Richland Center on U.S. Highway 14. The facility houses a massive selection of motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, UTVs, boats, parts, accessories, supplies, gear and apparel.
Growth continued in the 2000s with the acquisition of nearby Jones Powersports in 2007, which included Suzuki, Kawasaki and Tracker boats.
In 2005, the business expanded to Madison, Wis., 65 miles east, with the acquisition of the assets of powersports dealer, Young America, to access the larger, urban market around the state capitol city. The acquisition brought with it the territory for Honda cycles, ATVs, UTVs and power equipment, Suzuki, BRP with Ski-doo, Spyder and later Commander. The facility and location, however, were not ideal and planning began for a new facility in the same general area.
“There were a lot of regulatory issues with land in Madison, so we acquired a parcel that is actually about a quarter mile outside the city limits. The location for the facilities on that land was affected by the fact that the building site was close to a wetland.
Even the location of the sign we wanted to put up there had to meet a lot of requirements like setback distances. We had to get approvals from about 15 different agencies to get it done. Others had looked at the land and the things that would have to be done, and gave up. We kept at it until we got it done, and when it was done we had a file of permits and papers about this thick,” Vetesnik explained holding his hands about six inches apart.
Persistence paid off; construction on the new facility, which is actually located in Deforest, began in 2008 and opened in Jan. 2009 as Mad City Power Sports. It provided an additional 20,000 square feet of sales and service floor space, together with additional warehouse space.
In addition to the robust retail location presence provided by the two locations, Vetesnik has extended its reach into the market nationwide through its Internet operations.
“We’ve had inquiries and sales from all around the Midwest and even from as far away as Alaska through our website; it’s important,” explained vehicle sales representative, Ron Olson.
Taken together, the physical sales presence in the region’s market and Internet activities have taken the business a long way from the humble beginnings of 100 units a year. “We sell about 2,000 units a year now, including wholesale, and things have been gradually improving,” said sales and marine manager, Chris Gerber.
Of course, the recession had an impact on Vetesnik’s operations, despite the long-term growth of the enterprise, as George Vetesnik, Jr. explained. “Things were still pretty good in 2007; it was 2008 when things got tougher and we had to reduce our overhead. Keeping costs in line was a matter of keeping up with how fast things were changing.” Today, as the economy continues to recover, Vetesnik’s operations employ an average of 30 to 32 staff members at both facilities combined.
Visibility and community connections are supported by dealer sponsored events at the store locations, in the community and around the region. The Vetesnik Power Boat Show in February, Spring Consignment Auction in March, the 2014 Honda Wing Ding Gold Wing Rally in July, Vetesnik’s Rendezvous, local bike nights, sponsoring local ATV, snowmobile and motorcycle racers are just a few examples.
Vetesnik Power Sports is a family enterprise that has grown and progressed even in the face of tough markets, perhaps because they strive to follow their business motto: “Where customers are treated like family.”
Vetesniks Power Sports
27475 US Highway 14
East Richland Center, WI 53581
OEM: Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki,
Kawasaki, Can-Am, Arctic Cat,
Polaris, Sea-doo, Ski-doo and
Number of employees: 32