WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The owners of Indiana’s largest multi-location Harley-Davidson dealership group are getting ready to build a new store on five acres in West Lafayette.
Owners Mark and Michael Forszt won approval from the West Lafayette Area Planning Commission Feb. 19 to have the site rezoned for the dealership, which will be a U-shaped complex of three, 12,000-sq.-ft. “pods” – one for the showroom, one for service and another for offices. (See image, right)
Bike parking will be a courtyard in the middle of the U, which will also serve as a staging area for bike nights and charity rides.
“We are operating out of the store in Frankfort now and we are opening a new store in Lafayette. We hope it will be open in the fall,” Mark Forszt said.
The Forszts own a small archipelago of dealerships spanning the state, from Michigan City Harley-Davidson in the north to Harley-Davidson of Valparaiso, Harley-Davidson of Kokomo and IndyWest Harley-Davidson in Plainfield. The team shut down a second 10,000 sq.ft. dealership site in an industrial park in Frankfort late last year, Forszt said.
“[The new store] gives us five stores in Indiana now. That enlarges our footprint. It’s a strategic move to have larger market share,” Forszt said. “It gives us a contiguous market.”
The new store, Boiler Harley-Davidson, is named to give a nod to local sports: Purdue University’s teams are known as the “Boilermakers.”
While other cities may be struggling, Forszt said it’s a great time to be opening the West Lafayette store because local colleges, hospitals and manufacturing plants have kept the area’s economy strong.
“The Lafayette economy is great. It has the lowest unemployment in the state,” he said. Even so, he’s not too worried about having to compete for employees: “With Harley-Davidson you have a lot of people who are passionate about it and would rather work there than at a factory or being a bricklayer or something,” he said.
The land near Interstate 65 and South Street is in a commercial area near mid-level motels and a Walmart. The property had to be rezoned because the former zoning did not allow auto dealerships.
“However, when examining this specific use, staff finds few comparisons to an automobile dealership where there are bright lights on 24 hours per day and an expansive outside inventory. A motorcycle dealership does not normally store inventory outside,” city staff concluded in recommending the zone change.
Now the task is to build the dream.
“I’ve built four other stores from scratch,” Forszt said. “There’s a lot of things we wished we had done at the other stores, but we’ve written them down ahead of time so now we are incorporating that into this store.”