BACKGROUND. Skip Fordyce opened the Riverside dealership in 1941, selling Harley-Davidson, Honda and other makes of motorcycles. Judson Dabney bought the dealership from Fordyce in 1974, kept the name, and the Dabney family has owned and run the dealership continuously ever since.
Shortly after buying the dealership, Judson Dabney moved it to a new, 14,000 sq. ft. store near a nascent auto mall. When he became ill and died in 1992, son Jay Dabney, who had worked at the dealership since 1984, took the reins as dealer principal and GM. In 1997, he made younger brother Ty Dabney the new GM, a post he held until 2000.
Over the years, the dealership grew and moved. In 1993, Dabney invested $250,000 in a corporate-offered renovation program that made it a “designer store” touting the Harley-Davidson brand. In 2000, he sold the Honda franchise and invested the proceeds into a new, 35,000 sq. ft. “state of the art” dealership that opened Aug. 1, 2002, court documents showed. Dabney worked with Harley-Davidson on the store design, which “incorporates architectural design principles of Frank Lloyd Wright.” The dealer bought proprietary fixtures from the Motor Co. The renovation cost $4 million, according to Dabney’s attorneys.
In 2005 the dealership added a Buell franchise and continued carrying the brand until Harley-Davidson ended its relationship with Buell in 2008.
Riverside spent another $1 million to open another store in nearby Corona in 2006 after persuading Harley-Davidson that Riverside could keep up with the area demand by opening a second store, rather than bringing in a competing dealer.
In March 2007, Dabney and then-GM Lester Veik bought an interest in Monterey County Harley-Davidson in Salinas, Calif. Veik, a lifetime friend of Dabney’s, according to his attorneys, was promoted to replace Ty Dabney as GM in 2000. He had started working at the dealership in 1996 as a weekend salesman. A few years later he was promoted to service manager, and was credited with turning the money-losing Service department into a profit center, the attorneys said.
Dabney restructured the business in 2000 – in part, his attorneys contended, based on recommendations from a Harley-Davidson training program that suggested owner-management should be separated from operational management. As a result, they contend, Dabney focused on market development and left the dealership operations in Veik’s hands.
“Some employees,” the decision noted, “referred to Jay as the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ because they heard his voice but did not see his face.” (story continues)