PEORIA, Ill. – The World of Powersports is getting bigger, and this time it's saving a beloved shop in central Illinois: Grayboy Motor Sports.
It looked like Grayboy would close for good when the business shut down on Sept. 29. But the store reopened Oct. 2 with the same staff under World of Powersports management.
“We were definitely looking to expand when we heard that this store was closing down,” said World of Powersports co-owner Matt Jackson. “We contacted the owners, and luckily they had not signed their closing forms yet. I was able to get with Sherry [Hays], the owners’ daughter, who had been running the store for the last few years.”
Grayboy had been in business for 45 years. Owner Alfred “Tote” Gray, a local motorcycle and racing icon, retired in 2004. The family had looked quietly for a buyer but had found none, until the Decatur, Ill.,-based Top 100 Dealer stepped in.
“Ironically, one of their employees applied for a job," Jackson said. "We heard they had tried to sell it for two years but didn’t want local competitors to know about it. We could have got with them earlier and made the process go a little easier. We made the deal about three weeks ago.”
The Jacksons have big plans for their new store. Not only will they retain current staff, but they are already doing their first wave of hiring and scouting for a new site.
“The staff that’s here is going to stay the same. The great service is going to stay the same. Our ultimate desire is to move the dealership into a superstore location with frontage along the highway and an opportunity for an off-road test drive area,” Jackson said. “Our goal is to have the dealership moved within 12 months.”
That would facilitate their goal of increasing business in the used bike and off-road segments, as well as adding new vehicle franchises, and expanding the service department.
“Used bikes -- this store, being undercapitalized, could not take advantage of [it],” Jackson said. “About 20 percent of our Decatur store [business] is in this area. We feel like we can grow the business that Grayboy had left. They’ve lost a lot of their volume over the years. We hope to retain the 20 percent of our business that we presently have and grow that."
“We’ve had several customers already contact us," Jackson added. "They have heard through the grapevine that World of Powersports is coming to Peoria, and they are excited about it.
“The Service department has a great reputation, so we are keeping the service staff. We are going to try to hire more service techs,” Jackson said. “We are taking over 10 staff members and ultimately we feel like we will need about 25 at the dealership. We have immediate openings for about five people right now -- two mechanics, two salespeople and one more in the office.”
The Grays will get a special sendoff Nov. 10 when the store hosts a retirement party for them following an auction of the dealership's vintage leftovers, which include bikes, parts and racing memorabilia.
Hays, who’s been office manager for 25 years, is staying on as needed. “She said six months at least, but maybe I can convince her to stay longer,” Jackson said.
The Jackson family began their business with a vintage-focused store in 1990. They bought the World of Powersports store in Decatur in 1995, and have since bought three car dealerships. Now even with the new acquisition, they have no plans to slow down.
“I would say we are definitely interested in other opportunities in the near or the distant future. We see this as a great opportunity to expand in the powersports industry,” he said. “We think the recession and the slowdown is behind us, we hope. Time to throttle down and get it going again.”