More than 1,300 people ride in the 17th Annual Bikers for Babies Ride on Sunday from North Collier Regional Park in Naples to Six Bends Harley-Davidson in Fort Myers. Proceeds from the ride benefit the March of Dimes. Kinfay Moroti/news-press.com
Scott Fischer is exiting his Harley-Davidson ownership in south Fort Myers and Naples, but he’s not riding off into the sunset.
TMCFM Inc. is owned by members of the Veracka family, who own and operate several other Harley dealerships.
The family’s group of Harley stores, known as The Motorcycle Company, consists of dealerships in West Palm Beach; Denver; North Billerica, Massachusetts; Olathe, Kansas; and Riverside and Westminster, California.
A representative from TMCFM could not be reached as of 4 p.m.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Fischer sat down Thursday at the Six Bends dealership for an exclusive interview with The News-Press.
“It’s timely,” he said. “To be at the top of the market, to have great value. We’ve built such a great brand in the Southwest Florida market.”
Scott Fischer Enterprises will continue to own and operate Top Rocker Events and Top Rocker Field, which is next to the south Fort Myers dealership. He’ll retain control of 18 of the 26 acres at the site.
“We’re in a very envious market, we’ve been a very envious business and the opportunity is great,” he said. “Part of my succession plan isn’t to be in Harley dealerships the rest of my life.”
The 58-year-old will continue to own and operate two Harley dealerships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and one in the Los Angeles area. Fischer called those three dealerships the equivalent of half of the total business, with 150 employees.
The Six Bends dealership, which opened near Interstate 75 and Daniels Parkway in October 2014, operates in a 55,000-square-foot space.
“The best thing we’ve accomplished is we’ve created a regional destination,” he said.
The Naples dealership occupies 28,000 square feet on Pine Ridge Road.
The dealerships combined employ 115 people.
Fischer broke the news to employees during a staff meeting Thursday morning.
“There was a bit of somber in the audience,” he said, adding that many were surprised. “Ninety percent of the people congratulated me. It’s bittersweet.”
Scott Fischer Enterprises has long focused on employee satisfaction and development.
“You build your brand and your legacy around this product, and I really believe the opportunity for our staff in this business is going to become greater,” he said. “It is because of the hard work and commitment of our staff that’s made it possible to build a great company.”
That fact, Fischer said, is not lost on the incoming owners.
“The No. 1 asset they’re getting here is staff,” he said. “We have beautiful buildings, but the difference is the people. They know they can hit the ground running.”
Long, winding road
Fischer has worked in the motorcycle business for more than 40 years. The native of Columbus, Ohio, moved to Fort Myers in 1987.
Fischer thought back to his most recent history in the industry, and a pivot. In 2005, he owned four Harley-Davidson dealerships and five non-Harley dealerships. In 2008, during the Great Recession, he closed all the non-Harley dealerships to focus exclusively on the Harley brand.
“There have been a lot of milestones,” he said. “The biggest one is beginning right now.”
Fischer has big plans for the acreage he controls next to the Six Bends dealership as well as Top Rocker Field, which will continue to host community events from food-truck gatherings to concerts.
A “significant analysis of the marketplace” revealed a need for more entertainment. A hotel is also in the plans.
“Entertainment is very important with restaurants, with urban destinations,” he said. “How do you bring people together? You need food, drink and entertainment. It will be an urban entertainment destination to include restaurants and retail. Our plans are we’ll begin our development in 2018.”
Fischer said the motorcycle business in general is going through changing times due to the aging of baby boomers — its primary customer base.
Harley nationally has half of the motorcycle market share, but it has started to erode due to competition from makers such as Indian, Triumph and Ducati. Harley’s market share in Southwest Florida is even greater, according to Fischer, thanks to longstanding charitable riding events and other efforts.
“I feel we created the great market here,” he said.
That competition, however, isn’t Fischer’s biggest concern. Rather, it’s figuring out how to capture younger people in the marketplace. Two avenues are rider education and the rider academy, which introduces people to motorcycles and gets them comfortable on bikes.
“The challenge is, ‘How do we continue to grow new customers?’ ” he said.
Fischer is active in the community, sitting on the boards for Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida, Blessings in a Backpack, Cypress Lake Country Club and Tamiami Angel Fund.
“I firmly believe and want to lead,” he said. “What I really believe in doing is helping nonprofits.”
Fischer wants to help with strategic, operational and business planning. He’s also interested in the budding world of startups, incubators and accelerators in the area.
“There’s an attraction for the education and growth of that sector that we haven’t had,” he said. “If I write a check, I want to fund future capacity.”
For example, rather than simply writing a check to the United Way, he funded the development of a website for the local chapter of the organization, which helps it attract more donations.
Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, called Fischer a visionary who is fun and energizing to work with, a man who built the Six Bends dealership with the community in mind.
“I think people would be astonished to see how many community events he has hosted, how many meetings he has had, how often he has partnered with community organizations,” she said.
Owen called the sale “the best news I could ever get” because it will allow Fischer to focus even more on community causes.
“He’s going to continue to vision economic projects for the community,” she said. “He’s a philanthropist looking for ways to make organizations stronger. He supports causes with his time, his brain and his money.”
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