They're mighty in McHenry

Publish Date: 
Nov 1, 2013
By Georgia Krause

“BEING A SMALL STORE in the world of Harley-Davidson is sort of out of the norm,” says McHenry Harley-Davidson GM Chris Hoak. “We have to maximize what we have to work with.”

So instead of trying to retail like one of the megastores, cramming more products into a finite number of square feet, McHenry Harley-Davidson fills its store with expert staff and continuous opportunities to enhance its customers’ riding experience.

Good thing exceptional customer service doesn’t take up much room. Located three miles east of the intersection of Illinois Routes 120 and 12, McHenry Harley-Davidson sits close to the Illinois-Wisconsin border, about 50 miles northwest of Chicago.  It’s a smaller dealership than other Harley stores. Its building is a snug 10,000 square feet – half of which is dedicated to the service department. New motorcycles, sales, apparel, parts and accessories, and office administration departments rub elbows in the other 5,000 square feet. In good weather, pre-owned bikes are displayed outside the store, which adds a few more feet of retail space.

Photos by Barger Photography

Doug Jackson and his partners, Arnold Horwich and Tracy Lancaster, acquired the McHenry dealership a little over a year ago. Hoak is the store’s GM. McHenry is a secondary retail location to Woodstock Harley-Davidson. The group has a third Harley dealership just across the state line in Lake Geneva, Wis.

Owners and managers alike understand that their customer’s riding experience continues to grow for years after they’ve purchased their vehicle. Service, accessories, clothing, camaraderie are integral to Harley ownership, and the successful retailer is the one who makes the effort to keep customers engaged after the bike sale. McHenry H-D’s efforts to create a unique customer sales culture are apparent as soon as you enter the store.  

“We know and greet our current customers by name when they walk in the door. We take our time with each customer. When a new customer asks where the parts department is, we never point and say, ‘Over there.’ Instead, we introduce ourselves and walk with the customer to the parts department, then introduce the customer to the parts employee,” Hoak explains.

It’s a small courtesy that communicates such large respect for the customer, thereby strengthening the relationship.

Hoak has configured the front of the store with a natural traffic flow that encourages customers to meander around the new bikes (they usually have around 25 models on the floor), exchange a few pleasantries with the sales staff, check with the accessories folks for new chrome stuff and maybe consider some new riding wear. As typical with Harley fixtures, you won’t see static walls or permanent display cases anchored to the floor.  

“The departments aren’t really divided,” Hoak says. “Each section blends into the other, making it very easy for customers to wander and shop.”  (continued)