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Harley-Davidson of Utica started in 1975 in the midst of the AMF years. In the beginning, the franchise was part of Don’s Ford on Route 12 North in Utica. While it may seem an unlikely combination, times being what they were in the mid 1970s, it was a win-win relationship from the beginning.
Harley-Davidson Motor Company had significant pressure from Japanese imports at the time and was looking to increase its dealer ranks to market its line of lightweight (250cc and smaller) motorcycles, made by Aermacchi, Harley-Davidson’s Italian motorcycle subsidiary. With gasoline shortages and price hikes spurred on by the Arab oil embargo of 1973, buyers were looking for fuel efficient vehicles. So, we were pretty successful in selling those little Harley-Davidson® motorcycles.
By 1977, oil prices eased and Harley-Davidson had pretty much given up on the lightweight bike market. The product line basically consisted of the Electra Glide®, Super Glide®, Low Rider® and Sportster® in the lineup. In 1981, AMF sold the Harley-Davidson division to thirteen members of the Harley-Davidson management team.
In those years, we were a very small dealer, selling maybe 50 bikes a year. Like all dealers, the 1980s were very tough years. Interest rates were very high and product quality was poor. But year by year things improved, the new Evolution® engine was unveiled, the Softail® line was introduced and product quality was continuously improved.
By the end of the 1980s, we were beginning to outgrow the little corner of Don’s Ford that we had occupied for fifteen years and discussion began about moving to a separate facility. Finally in the spring of 1993, Harley-Davidson of Utica opened up on North Genesee Street in Utica. With a place of our own, we had room to breathe and were in a facility that we felt we would never outgrow.
Initially, we only occupied a small portion of that building, using about 4,000 square feet. We added to our accessory and clothing lines and the Motor Company shipped more bikes to us, but like all dealers, we could not keep bikes in stock. We added the new Buell® line in the late 1990s. As the other tenants in the building moved out, we kept expanding until 2001 when we finally occupied the building’s entire 14,000 square feet. But soon, we were out of room again.