Kate Ribar 'has it made' at Renegade H-D

Publish Date: 
Apr 24, 2014
By Holly J. Wagner

“We saw a lot of new faces on the property, and you could feel the happiness and inquisitiveness in those new folks. This alone tells me it was successful,” Ribar said. “Whenever we can reach out to non-riders and inspire them into the thought of becoming a rider, that’s my success.”

Ribar said she is determined to do it better each time. She plans more staff training, changing the marketing tack and making a few other improvements before the second auction in May. “My goal is to perfect the auction. I want to see where I can take it now. It’s an extra stream of income,” she said.

Come for the bikes, stay for the culture

Renegade H-D takes advantage of dealer events to share Louisiana’s legendary jazz, Cajun and Creole music and food. The dealership holds an annual crawfish boil, and since 2009, the dealership has officially celebrated Black History Month each February.

“The demographic here is 64 percent African-American and the rest is ‘other,’” she said. “You have to invite different demographics in.”

For its first Black History Month, the dealership has held events to honor the three major local rider clubs: Buffalo Soldiers, Golden Eagles and Ruff Ryders plus a special recognition for all Harley enthusiasts. Each event spotlighted a different local cuisine, and Ribar hired costumed actors to give readings depicting local historical figures. Harley-Davidson's CEO was among the executives invited, although he did not attend.

“It’s really about American history. I spent months putting it together. I spent a fortune on it, and we had a blast,” Ribar said. “Every year I have continued to do it. That is my commitment to our community and to the black riders here. They know they can come in and shop.”

And the upshot: about half of the Ruff Ryders, who mostly own sportbikes, have since bought Street Glides. “Our residual from doing this one, month-long event has continued to mushroom,” she said.

Then there was the time in 2011 when Ribar persuaded the state Harley Owners Group to bring its rally to Alexandria. “That was crazy fun,” she said -- and worked feverishly but unsuccessfully to secure the 2015 state rally.  

“In advance, it takes four or five months. You have to make a presentation about the area’s hotels, restaurants, points of interest -- churches, plantations, local fishing areas. I even gave them a list of all of our churches and hospitals,” she said. “Believe it or not, they don’t come just to ride. They come to have a vacation.”

The dealership dinner for the 2011 rally was a sit-down affair, complete with local seafood, tablecloths, candlelight and a burlesque show. The 2011 state HOG rally added $500,000 to community coffers.

The ‘fusion’

Ribar has plenty to keep her busy renovating the dealership.