Trump's tweets don't ruffle Thiensville Harley dealer

Trump's tweets don't ruffle Thiensville Harley dealer


 Jim
Castellano, a mechanic at Suburban Harley in
Thiensville,
drains the fluid on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Photo by Mark Justesen


THIENSVILLE — While President Trump is tweeting
Harley-Davidson’s plan to move some production overseas
is “the beginning of the end” for the company, the sales
manager of Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson is not losing
any sleep.


Trump has reacted on numerous occasions – including
during his June 28 visit to Milwaukee and the Foxconn
groundbreaking in Racine County – to Harley-Davidson’s
announcement that it will build motorcycles bound for
the European Union overseas to avoid tariffs.

“I
don’t get caught up in the news,” said Todd Berlin,
sales manager for the largest Harley-Davidson dealership
in Wisconsin at 139 N. Main St. in Thiensville. “We work
six days a week here. We’re fully customer-driven. What
we worry about is keeping customers happy.”


Berlin works for owner Wayne Houpt, who is celebrating
his 43rd year of selling the iconic motorcycles that
Berlin called “a bit of Americana.”


Houpt has developed a loyal customer base at his
Thiensville dealership, where he moved from Grafton in
1981.

“He
started with zero and built this business. Now it’s the
largest in the state,” Berlin said.

“He
did it by straight, honest hard work.”


Berlin recently sold a motorcycle to a third-generation
customer. Many have stayed loyal to Suburban Motors
Harley-Davidson because Houpt didn’t follow other
dealers who marked up the prices of their bikes a few
years ago when they could only be purchased after a long
wait.


“Wayne refused to do that – and people remembered that,”
Berlin said.


Berlin added that people who purchase a Harley –
particularly from Suburban Motors – are buying into a
lifestyle, not just picking up a bike and riding away.

The
dealership organizes well-attended weekly rides and
other events that at least a few times a year warrant
closing down Main Street. For instance, Block Fest 2018,
set for July 14, will attract motorcyclists from
throughout the Milwaukee area to a party with music,
food, vendors and other attractions.

“We
have stuff going on all summer,” Berlin said. “We bring
in expensive bands and we don’t charge. That’s Wayne’s
way of giving back – that’s what we worry about. We
don’t get caught up in all of the political talk.”


While it’s business as usual at Suburban Motors,
Thiensville’s village president, who has represented
Trump in Wisconsin since the presidential campaign,
believes the company is making a mistake shipping
production overseas.


Mobley attended the president’s fundraiser at the
Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee with his wife, Susan. Trump
brought up the Harley situation, along with Foxconn and
the recent Supreme Court vacancy, during the breakfast
event.


“Trump stated his position – which I think is the
correct one – that Harley-Davidson is making a mistake,”
Mobley said, noting the motorcycles are a luxury good.
“To build Harleys in Thailand and then ship them into
the E.U. is really preposterous,” Mobley said. “That’s
like growing grapes in Brazil and trying to sell them as
French champagne; it’s not the same thing.” Mobley, who
teaches history and economics at Concordia University
Wisconsin, said Harley-Davidson might not even exist
today if it hadn’t been protected by a tariff by
President Ronald Reagan. They were being threatened by
competition from Japan at the time.


“Frankly, they were on the eve of going out of
business,” he said. “They’re just really lame to show
the white flag at this time.”


Mobley said Harley needs to remain a luxury good and
focus on marketing to millennials.


“They are uniquely ill-suited to be waving the
free-trade banner at this juncture,” he said. “I don’t
think it’s good for their brand. Therefore, it’s not
good for Suburban Harley and therefore, it’s not good
for Thiensville.


“They need to wake up and realize the type of product
they’re selling,” Mobley added.

From
Berlin’s perspective, business is good – and his
customers are happy.


“We’re going to let Harley and the president figure that
out,” he said. “We’re trying to have a business go here
– and it’s going pretty good.”

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About Craig Ballantyne 13343 Articles
I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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