So much has changed over the past 70 years - from the way we listen to music to how we communicate. But one thing has always stayed the same … Motorcycles. Yes, they have evolved with technology and motorsport progression, but the true essence of the motorcycle and lifestyle that comes with it has remained constant.
In 1947, John S. Reid thought he would take a gamble on a career selling and repairing motorcycles. This was the inception of Gowanda Harley-Davidson (GHD). I recently had the opportunity to speak with his daughter, Paula Rosen, current President and part owner of GHD. Rosen owns the business in conjunction with her brother, Marty Reid. “My father had ten children with our mother (Madeleine Reid) so he was always holding down as many jobs as he could. In his spare time dad was somewhere fixing and tinkering with motorcycles; it only made sense that his dream would be to open a Harley-Davidson store.”
Seventy years later and the doors are still open. The business holds the same values as when it started - it’s all about family at GHD. “We have customers who are 2nd or 3rd generation riders coming into our store,” said Rosen. “That’s very humbling.”
I asked Rosen, “Why Harley-Davidson? Why not Indian or one of the other major brands at the time?” Her response: “That’s America … it’s what dad always said.” And it is this reply from Rosen that got me thinking … there are so many timeless symbols associated with the United States of America, but what brand evokes more patriotism across the entirety of the USA? Mr. Reid was right. I cannot think of a better example.
Over the years, six of the 10 children have run the dealership, and grandkids (and even great-grandkids) have worked there as well. “We have always carried motorcycle accessories - everything from helmets to riding jackets - but over the recent years there has been such an expansion of choices. It has been neat to see how many new product lines are coming out; you can get anything and everything Harley-Davidson now,” said Rosen.
General Merchandise Manager, Laura Coppola, elaborated on the shop’s merchandise offerings. “The Show Room was expanded about ten years ago, which has allowed us to increase the number of products we carry,” she said. “New products are constantly coming onto the market and riding gear has come a long way over the years. It has evolved to be more functional, and women’s lines have gotten trendier. We carry everything you need head-to-toe and for every weather condition mother nature throws our way!”
One of the unique product lines they offer is the Harley-Davidson Wiley-X Eyewear, which is available in prescription and progression lenses. “We carry an ample selection of textile jackets, leather jackets, performance boots and clothing, along with Harley-Davidson gifts and household items,” Coppola said.
In February, GHD met with the owner of the Made-in-America store about becoming a ‘store-in-store’ location. “Essentially, we have dedicated a section of our store to carrying Made-in-America products,” Coppola explained. “It fits right in with Reid’s slogan: ‘That’s America’.”
“People are just starting to catch on,” continued Coppola, “and the community and customers have embraced and praised the dealership for adding this great new line of items.” Current items in stock include a line of Military Branch ballcaps, American flags, the All-American grill (which is made in Elma, NY) and various home and gardening tools. They also stock a plethora of grilling accessories you may need to go from Sunday ride to Sunday BBQ in a flash. Because Coppola is constantly changing it up, she encourages you to stop by anytime you are in the area.
On the Motorcycle end, GHD is really excited for the new engine by Harley-Davidson - the Milwaukee-Eight, which is part of the the ninth generation of its venerable Big Twin. “It is named in honor of its birthplace and its number of valves - twice as many as the Twin Cam motor,” Delaney Peters tells me. Peters is the Director of Marketing for GHD. “Harley-Davidson says the new engine platform provides faster throttle response, more torque, better sound, improved fuel economy and a smoother ride.”
In celebration of its 70th anniversary, Gowanda Harley-Davidson is throwing a Birthday Bash: The Year of 7s 1947-2017. The party (fittingly scheduled for 7/7/2017) will be an event for the books, and will run from 11:30am to 10pm at the store’s location in Gowanda, rain or shine. Free hot dogs and soda pop will be served up until 1pm, and live music from five local bands will entertain crowds the entire time. “Musical talent and bikes seem to go hand-in-hand, and we’ve decided to hire only bands that have customers in them,” said Peters.
This event will be even more exciting with the addition of a food and beer tent operated by Villaggio of Ellicottville, NY. As Peters explained, “After seeing the level of class they put forth in the Hollywood Happening VIP tent in 2016 along with their fun loving attitudes, it was clear they would be a good fit for an event of this caliber.”
“It is going to be a pleasure to celebrate the past 70 years in honor of our founder’s tradition and to thank the customers who have supported us all these years,” Coppola said.
“We’re looking forward to the next 70 years of serving our amazing customers with the same enthusiastic, passionate service,” Rosen says.
The passion and excitement that the GHD staff has for what they do is remarkable. This Birthday Bash is sure to be fun for all. If you cannot make it to the store for the big bash, be sure to stop in another time and check out the shop. I am sure you will not be disappointed, as anyone who walks in leaves as family.
Gowanda Harley-Davidson is located at 2535 Zoar Rd., Gowanda, NY 14070. For more information, call 716-532-4584 or head to www.gowandaharley.com.