RON AND SUE Higgins, who own Higgins Powersports and Higgins Energy Alternatives in Barre, Mass., started out selling fireplaces in 1975 when gas station lines were long and home heating was expensive. The growth of that business allowed them to add vehicles in 1985.
“The reason powersports came into our world was because our mechanic ... knew how to work on ATVs and snowmobiles,” Ron Higgins said.
A Polaris franchise wasn’t easy to support at first — they had no display space. “I would take the vehicles home on a trailer every night because the shop was so small there was no place to display them,” Higgins recalled. Higgins eventually added Ski-Doo, Can-Am, Victory and Kawasaki.
These days the two businesses run neck and neck in revenue, and that helps keep the financial sheets stable. “It evens out our year. We don’t have much down time,” Higgins said. “If you could count on snow it would be one thing, but you can’t in New England. This helps keep good cash flow across the year.”
The business has expanded four times. A new 34,000 sq. ft. building was created specifically for the combined business. Each showroom has a dedicated entrance, and glass doors let people see and move from showroom to showroom.
“Customers end up going to both stores,” Higgins said. “The husband will be coming for the powersports and the wife will say, ‘I didn’t know you had fireplaces.’ Or they come in for a fireplace and see the powersports and go over to look.” Some autumn and spring riders will come in just to warm up.
Each showroom has a dedicated staff for sales, service and parts. Each has its own parts counter. But the back office is all one operation.
They’ve added solar panels and installations to the product mix, and are installing solar panels on the roof of the new building to save on energy costs. “We designed a duct system so when the [fireplace] room is being heated and we are cranking out all this heat we can’t use, we can heat the powersports business with the heat from the hearth business instead of using propane,” Higgins said. (Continued)