Steamboat Springs When Michael Graves saw an opportunity to exchange the 106-degree heat of Dallas for Steamboat Springs' mild climate, he jumped at it.
But before he took the helm of Steamboat Powersports in Riverside Place, he partnered with the president of the Texas Motorcycle Dealers Association. Graves and Alan P. Lamb are the new owners of the dealership previously known as Planet Powersports. They acquired the business and the real estate from former owner Randall Reed. Graves has an extensive business background including retail design and real estate development. But when it comes to motorcycles and snowmobiles, he decided he needed to rely on the expertise of a longtime associate who just happens to own three stores, including Dallas Honda.
"I would never have entered the business without Al's involvement and his 32 years of experience," Graves said.
Graves, a longtime business associate of Reed, said Reed needed to focus his energies on his six Ford dealerships in Texas.
Ironically, Graves originally agreed only to help Reed find the best location for his new motorcycle, ATV, side-by-side and snowmobile business. Graves, who helped Reed develop a futuristic design theme for his auto dealerships, had to be talked into taking a minority stake in Planet Powersports in Steamboat, along with Planet Powersports in Craig (now Craig Powersports).
"At first, I told Randall, 'I'm not going to do it.' But I finally agreed to take 10 percent of the deal," Graves said.
After a few years, Graves and his wife, Lori Blair-Graves, began seeking a change in lifestyle. Graves approached Reed to ask whether he'd sell him the powersports business.
"I'll sell you a majority interest in the shopping center," was Reed's reply.
Graves acknowledges this is a difficult time to be in the business of selling motorcycles and snowmobiles.
"We just saw two large stores close in Denver, and three to four close nationally every month," he said.
However, he thinks the survivors will be positioned for success when the economy comes back. And he's confident that with the benefit of Lamb's wisdom and his ability to recruit two young veterans in Service Director Dave Moothart and General Manager Jason Stanhope, they can rebuild the dealership's reputation for customer service.
"People are still buying ATVs and dirt bikes," Graves said. "It's really a lifestyle up here. It's not the desire that's gone away - it's the ability to get people funded."
Accessing financing for customers is one of the strengths Lamb brings to the Steamboat business.
"Al's reputation has allowed us to access financing," Graves said. "They know he knows what he's doing, and if there's a problem, he's going to fix it."
Steamboat Powersports can put customers into entry-level dirt bikes from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki for as little as $3,000, and depending on their credit scores and income, they may not have to put any money down.
Steamboat Powersports also is tapping into Lamb's network of wholesalers of new inventory from previous model years. Liquidation sales make it easier to locate a new machine at reduced prices for customers on a budget.
"If a guy really wants a new sled, we can make it happen," Graves said.
Graves faces critical decisions during two weeks at the end of July and beginning of August, when he must decide how many 2010 snow machines to order. But his confidence is buoyed by the news that Craig Powersports had its best month in June, selling 66 units.
He also expects leasing agent Jim C. Hansen to be able to announce as soon as this week that he's inked a lease with a national retailer, already operating elsewhere in Steamboat, to move to Riverside Place. When that happens, Graves predicted, two or three more businesses likely could sign leases in his commercial center.