Anatomy of an Open House

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a dealership without an open house or anniversary sale these days. The granddaddy of them all seems to be held at J&P Cycles of Anamosa, Iowa, which puts on an annual two-day affair complete with celebrity appearances and a “customer rodeo.” Last year, the fete attracted more than 22,000 people — no easy feat, considering the warehouse is located in small-town Iowa. Attendees hailed from as far away as California and Canada.

So how do they do it? We talked to Heidi Capron and Angi Kearney, the marketing-and-events team responsible for putting on the behemoth event.

Dealernews: When does all the planning and marketing actually begin?
Capron: We started having meetings for this year’s event in July of last year. We have meetings every month on it, with constant communication back and forth with staff.

Kearney: We start planning for the next year’s open house at that current open house. At last year’s event, the date was already set, and there were posters and fliers advertising for 2010. I imagine we’ll also do that at this year’s event. We also advertise in national magazines. And word of mouth is a great thing.

DN: What kind of staff power do you need for an event of this size?
Kearney: We use every employee in our Iowa facility. We also bring 10 people from our Florida facility to help us. Our accounting department works our food tent. Our e-commerce group parks cars. An employee has no [regular] title that day. Everyone is just out there to get the job done.

DN: What about security and shoplifting issues?
Capron: We turn our warehouse into a retail showroom. Part of the building is blocked off. We do hire extra security, and we also have our own staff that walks around and watches hands. Our own employees are our main security.

DN: What’s in store for this year?
Kearney: The National Motorcycle Museum will have the AMA’s and Arlen Ness’ “Awesome-Ness” exhibit. It’s going to debut there during our open house. Arlen Ness will be at our event to promote it. We’ll also have between 60 to 75 manufacturers on-site. It’s truly amazing the support we get from these companies.

Capron: We’re going to have Circus Una perform tightrope acts, the Easyriders dyno truck is coming back, there will be free food and drinks to all attendees. We’ll also have a customer rodeo so that our customers can do goofy rodeo field-type events, which is a lot of fun.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews April 2010 issue.