Another little piece of Harley-Davidson history died last Friday. Roeder Harley in Sandusky, Ohio just threw itself to the credit wolves.
Roeder is the fourth dealership to close in the last six months and the second to close in the last week. Santa Cruz Harley and Wilwert’s Harley closed late last year. Auburn Harley closed earlier last week.
The defunct dealership is named after a farm boy named George Roeder who began racing Motorcycles in 1949. He joined the Harley-Davidson Racing Team five years later, when he was still just seventeen, and in 1965 he set the world land speed record for 250cc motorcycles. Roeder took a modified Harley-Davidson Sprint out on the Bonneville Salt Flats and pushed it up to a little over 177 miles an hour.
Roeder retired from racing two years after that but he kept riding and tinkering with bikes and in 1972 a friend suggested he try to open a Harley dealership. Harley was not interested in new dealers that year but Roeder called a friend named John Davidson who told him, “I’ll see that you get one.”
Harleys were still famous for “marking their spot” in the 1970s. But Roeder was a terrific mechanic. He told his customers that his bikes were “built to run and if they didn’t bring them back.” When the bikes came back Roeder fixed them.
Roeder was, of course, so yesterday. He did not have an MBA. He was in the motorcycle business because he loved motorcycles and he rode his bike, “winter or summer, rain or snow, everyday” until the day he died in May, 2003.
The dealership he opened outlived him by just a little more than six years.
Harsh New Reality
The franchise, which is now owned by George Roeder’s son and daughter-in-law, Will and Julie Roeder, has been sinking like a stone since the economy hit an iceberg late last year.
The dealership and a parent corporation named WJR Rentals were sued by National City Bank in Sandusky on April 29th. The Bank has a $2.5 million judgment against WJR Rentals. The company also owes $28,184 in property taxes. The Bank suit seeks to liquidate the dealership so the next day Harley-Davidson filed its own suit.
According to public documents, Roeder Harley has been in default on loans made by the motor company since last October 2nd. Harley-Davidson said it had delayed suing the dealership to give Roeder time to refinance or sell the franchise. Roeder Harley owed the manufacturer $2.05 million as of March 31st.
Roeder Harley has collateral worth about $1 million.
Ohio Bike Week
For the last three years, Roeder has been the principal sponsor of a regional bike rally called Ohio Bike Week.
Ohio Bike Week 2009 is scheduled to start June 5th and end June 14th. Shows, concerts, races and stunts will be dispersed throughout northeastern Ohio in Monroeville, Norwalk, Sandusky, Port Clinton, Toledo and Cleveland.
Event organizer Steve Ernst of Advantage Entertainment and Consulting has told multiple news outlets in the last three days that he expects the event to proceed as planned.