If you've felt or heard a bit more rumbling than usual near the intersection of Howe Avenue and Main Street/Home Road lately, it's probably the result of the new Harley-Davidson dealership, which has taken up residence at the former Circuit City.
Rubber City Harley-Davidson held its grand opening a month ago, when 5,500 Hog fans rolled up, according to the dealer's marketing and events manager, Sarah Lance.
Dealership owners Mike and Franscene Davis bought the franchise of the former Liberty Harley-Davidson dealership on Falls Avenue in Akron and brought roughly half of the staff along to the new dealership at Howe and Main, Lance said.
The Davises made a complete makeover of the building, from polishing the floors and adding the service bay to all new light fixtures, flatscreen TVs, a comfortable lounge for guests and a "Big Ass Fan" that spins at a leisurely pace overhead in the middle of the showroom. The result is a bright, open showroom featuring lots and lots of chrome on the floor, with accessories, clothing displays and dressing rooms toward the back.
The lounge features comfortable leather couches, a bigscreen TV, free coffee all day and a popcorn maker.
There's even a "Delivery Room" in front, where newly purchased "babies" are welcomed to the world with their new owners. "We get them a picture, and then we announce it over our speakers, we honk all the horns on the Harleys – it gets really loud," Lance said. "It really does become their babies."
In addition to the brighter, spiffier setting, another advantage the Rubber City dealership has over Liberty is the ready access to a freeway with Route 8 being less than a quarter-mile away.
The Davises are no strangers to Harley-Davidson. They also own Adventure Harley-Davidson in Dover and Mad River Harley-Davidson in Sandusky. "We're like a little powerhouse in Northeast Ohio," Lance said.
A few customers wandered in and out of the showroom and service area Thursday afternoon. Weekends get a bit busier, but Lance hesitated trying to peg a number on what traffic to expect on a given day. "It's still fluctuating, because we're new we don't have a 'typical' yet. We've only been open a month. It's high some days, but on like a Tuesday it might be a little lower."
The dealership offers new and used bikes, and the 2013 models are rolling out, including a new group of Hard Candy Custom Sportsters that Harley-Davidson is hoping will appeal to younger riders.
The dealership sponsors events on many weekends, including "Spin to Win" on Saturday and a "Biker Challenge Food Drive" on Sept. 15. "The owners are very adamant about making sure all the events we promote and attend are family friendly," Lance said. "We will never have Biker Babe Washes; we want to make sure whatever event we have, they would bring their kids to it. We don't have alcohol at our events; we don't feel it's safe to give bikers a bunch of alcohol and send them off on the road."
Sales Manager Jeff McInturff said you can drop $40,000 on a custom bike with all the bells and whistles, but prices start at about $9,000, which is competitive with basic Honda and Yamaha touring models. The average Harley customer spends about $15,000 on a new bike, McInturff said.