Jaecke inherited his sense of humor, mechanical mindedness and cautious nature from his father, Leslie, who balked at letting his son drive a car when he turned 14 (then the legal age for a license). “His reasoning was that if I had a car full of kids, I could go out and turn it over and kill half of them, and he would have lawsuits for the rest of his life,” Jaecke says. “So he let me have a motorcycle.”
After high school, Jaecke worked at his father’s stone quarry. But his love for repairing and servicing motorcycles grew, and in his late 20s he opened City Cycle Sales part-time in an old, burned building for which he got the first year’s rent waived in exchange for fixing it up.
To be a Harley dealer, Jaecke had to spend all his money, $500, on replacement parts to complement the five new motorcycles he sold on consignment. “My dad looked at that pile of parts, which you could put on top of a desk, and he said, ‘I couldn’t sleep nights if I had that much money invested,’” he says.
Jaecke eventually quit the stone quarry to focus on his struggling dealership. His first wife, Rosalie, helped run the store while raising three children. “Sometimes my wife would hide the bills so that I wouldn’t worry about them,” he recalls.
(Shortly before this time Jaecke had begun racing his Harley Sportster and Sprint motorcycles, attending events as far away as Daytona. He was older than most racers, but the years he’d spent at the stone quarry had prepared his body. The primary event in those days was Michigan’s two-day, 500-mile Jack Pine Enduro. Jaecke twice won first place in his class, and third place another year — pretty amazing given that only a small percentage of competitors would even finish. Jaecke also was state champion in his class in the 250cc hare scrambles.)
Back at the shop, business was still lukewarm. Honda offered itself five times, but Jaecke declined each time because he judged the bikes too small. “A big mistake,” he says, remembering how another dealer succeeded with the brand. To see if he could do the same with Yamaha, Jaecke bought a half-dozen bikes from a dealership that was closing. He would be a Yamaha dealer for the next 32 years.