TRAVERSE CITY — When one valve closes, another opens.
Iconic motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson ended a long-time association with Traverse City earlier this year.
But those with a hog will soon have another source for H-D apparel, parts and accessories.
Michael Zipser, the principal at Zips 45th Parallel Harley-Davidson since it opened in 2001 at 980 S. Wisconsin Ave. in Gaylord, will bring Zips Harley-Davidson Traverse City to 330 E. Front St. in the coming months.
“We’re very much looking forward to coming to Traverse City,” said Zipser, who has operated an attorney/CPA office in town since 1970.
Classic Motor Sports announced in late January it “would no longer represent the Harley-Davidson brand effective March 1,” according to a joint release. The agreement ended Harley-Davidson’s association of 30 years with Classic Motor Sports and of more than 60 years with Traverse City.
While the new location won’t be a Harley-Davidson dealer, Zipser plans to use an indoor loading dock at the back of the building as a drop-off/pick-up for motorcycles, which will be delivered to Gaylord for repairs “during the riding season.”
“You’re only allowed to sell motorcycles at the dealership, which is Gaylord,” Zipser said. “You’re only allowed to have one dealership in the territory.”
With the Harley-Classic Motor Sports relationship ended, the Northern Chapter of H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) had to disband. Each H.O.G. chapter must have a dealership sponsor, so the group needed to go with Zips in Gaylord or Holeshot Harley-Davidson in Mount Pleasant.
Carl Archambeau of Traverse City, the director of the Northern Chapter of H.O.G. until December, said the membership will vote the first Thursday of April on which dealership will sponsor the Harley-Davidson riding enthusiasts.
Whether the group votes for Gaylord or Mount Pleasant, having a store in Traverse City will be a good thing for the chapter.
“That’s a great thing,” said Archambeau, a H.O.G. Northern Chapter member for 20 years. “It will be good for our motorcycle group if we go that way. He’ll pick up motorcycles, send them to Gaylord, repair them and bring them back free of charge in this area.”
The association between Classic Motor Sports, 3939 S. Blue Star Drive, and the motorcycle company headquartered in Milwaukee ended on March 1. Don Pishney, who co-owns Classic with his wife, Nancy, said it was a mutual decision.
“It’s the right thing to do at the right time,” Don Pishney said in late January.
“The majority of the territory that Don had as Classic went to us,” Zipser said.
It seemed like a natural decision for the motorcycle company founded in 1903.
Zipser also operates Zips Harley-Davidson Mackinaw City. Located at 314 E. Central Ave., the Mackinaw City store is open six months a year and specializes in apparel from the motorcycle company. Zipser said he opened the Mackinaw City store a couple of years after the Gaylord dealership.
Zipser said the Traverse City store will have a larger selection of H-D parts and accessories. Plans call for the TC store to be open seven days a week year-round.
“Traverse City will have a large selection of P&A,” Zipser said. “We’re not just a tourist store. We’re running it as a local parts store for this territory.”
Zips Traverse City Harley-Davidson has a lease for half of the building that was home to Yen Yoga and Fitness. Zipser said of the 3,200 he will operate, about 2,400 square feet will be retail space.
The remaining space will be used for storage and the drop-off/pick-up.
Zipser said the TC store will have a staff of between five to eight employees, depending on full- or part-time work load. Zipser said staff will train in Gaylord before the Traverse City store opens in May.
“The goal is to beat Memorial Day,” said Zipser, who owns nine Arby’s franchises in the region. “The biggest problem, which I think we’re getting solved, is store fixtures.”
The front of the store will feature large photographs of people riding motorcycles.
“It’s going to be dramatic,” Zipser said. “There’s going to be lots of huge pictures. It’s going to be awesome.”
Zipser said Traverse City in particular and northern Michigan in general is a prime place for Harley-Davidson motorcycles and he’s looking forward to bringing a store dedicated to the brand to the largest city in the region.
“We have an unbelievable riding territory,” Zipser said.
Realtor Dan Stiebel, associate broker at Coldwell Banker Commercial, is the manager of Sunny Oak Holdings, LLC, which owns the building. Stiebel said the Harley-Davidson name speaks for itself and is probably the most tattooed corporate logo of all-time.
“It’s great to have a name brand as world-renowned as Harley-Davidson coming to downtown Traverse City,” Stiebel said. “It’ll be a good spot.”
“I think the store will be a great advantage to any motorcycle enthusiast in town,” Archambeau said.
“It’s going to be dramatic. There’s going to be lots of huge pictures. It’s going to be awesome.” Michael Zipser