Bona fide riders at San Diego's North County

Publish Date: 
Mar 20, 2013
By Dennis Johnson

ONE GOOD MEASURE of a dealership is to survey exactly how many of its employees actually get out and ride. There will always be at least a handful; but a majority who regularly rip on track, trail and road? That’s a really good sign.

At North County’s House of Motorcycles in Vista, Calif., riding isn’t just business, it’s the passion that connects the dealership’s employees to its large and varied customer base. A store full of enthusiasts is strong stuff when it comes to keeping up on product trends and knowing — on the deepest level — what your customers want.

“The majority of the store is involved in riding. We don’t seek out enthusiasts, but over time we turn a lot of employees into enthusiasts and they become part of the lifestyle,” says Mark Gusciora, general manager of the Top 100 dealership located about a half-hour north of San Diego. “I think it changes the conversation with customers. It allows us to become the expert in their eyes, because we’re involved on a daily basis. And that connection becomes much stronger.”

Given North County’s market share and location, maintaining connection is a strategic benefit. The dealership is located in the heart of San Diego County, a large chunk of Southern California that offers a multitude of varied riding terrains. From deep sand dunes and rocky desert trails to mountainous twisties and epic coastal roads, the topography looks as if it were designed by an enthusiast.

Photography by Joe Bonnello

North County’s House of Motorcycles also is within shouting distance of three major military installations — Camp Pendleton, the West Coast base of the United States Marine Corps; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (of “Top Gun” fame); and Naval Base San Diego, primary homeport of the Pacific Fleet.

Given the variety of terrain and customer profiles, it’s important that North County’s employees get it. And what the store’s marketing director, Alex Van Wey, says next is the perhaps the most profound statement a dealership can make: “We’re in one of the few businesses where you actually want to hang out with the customer after you sell him a product.”

Van Wey continues: “We take advantage of this. You usually don’t want to go hang out and play video games with your customer after they buy an Xbox from you at Walmart, or make them dinner after a trip to the grocery store.”

Indeed, after the sale is where the fun starts. At North County’s HOM, there are charity events, autograph signings, track days, stunting exhibitions, ride nights, dinner rides, weekend rides and just riding-to-ride rides. This social engagement is completely organic, Van Wey says, because it’s all about the riding. (Continued)