Throwing this big of a party is Harley easy in Greenfield and New Berlin
Motorcycle dealerships put a lot of effort into 110th anniversary celebration
Greenfield — A torrent of rain last Thursday morning did not stop a steady stream of people seeking out Jenny Lambert, a receptionist at the House of Harley in Greenfield.
The visitors wanted applications and instructions on staffing and volunteering at the dealership for the 110th Harley Davidson Anniversary Celebration, which began Aug. 28 and runs through Sept 2.
Lambert, a 10-year employee, took it all — including a flood of phone calls — in stride.
"People want information, and they want to help," said Lambert said, who also worked the 100th and 105th anniversary celebrations. "That's what I'm here for."
She is philosophical about her role.
"There is a lot of planning and a lot work, but not too many people are able to have the same experience," she said.
Giving people the best possible Harley anniversary experience is the goal, and that takes a lot of planning, said House of Harley President John Schaller and his counterpart Kirk Topel of Hal's Harley in New Berlin.
Schaller and Topel have been through previous Harley anniversaries. They said planning is important to optimize the milestone for their business.
While House of Harley is the largest and oldest dealership in the Milwaukee area, both shops are hosting major events, including entertainment and other activities designed to attract Harley veterans as well as those who aren't customers – yet.
"Everyone who comes here is a potential customer," Schaller said.
That's why so much attention is paid to all the details, from bringing in enough entertainment, making meaningful connections to a variety or local municipal resources and organizations to ensuring enough portable toilets are available to all.
Schaller anticipates his celebration — one that requires shutting down Layton Boulevard between 60th and 64th Streets — will attract 150,000 visitors, or 50,000 more than in 2008.
"We were in a recession in 2008 and a lot of people were on staycations," he said. "The economy is more stable, Harley has done more publicity and there are more cycles. Since 2008 Harley has sold two million motorcycles."
Schaller said his planning process began with internal evaluations of the 105th event. Both he and Topel, though, said the bulk of the plans have been rolling out in the past 18 months.
"Retail is a business that is all about the details," Topel said. "Whenever you do something like this, you hope you can generate sales throughout the event in the short term. The longer term is to have the opportunity to showcase your brand to a lot of people from all over the country and the world. It's a small world and you never know who is going to refer someone to your business."
Both business presidents said they could not do their events without the cooperation of local police and other government units. In fact, Schaller said local schools agreed to delay by a few days the start of their academic year to accommodate the parking needs of the event.
Getting employees to put in many extra hours with the same customer-centered attitude is a three-step process, Schaller said. It includes creating a pleasant work environment, paying people livable wages and providing professional growth opportunities.
After the anniversary activities conclude on Labor Day, there is no rest for the weary, said Schaller and Topel.
"I love the frenetic pace of it," Schaller said. "I don't think about relaxing afterward."
Topel said the extra work it takes to do an event doesn't mean taking it easy when it's done.
"Unwind by taking a week off may seem obvious, but it's not my style," Topel said. "It's important not to rest on your laurels. We'll be right back at it."
WHAT: Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary Celebration
WHERE: House of Harley, 6221 W. Layton Ave., Greenfield
Hal's Harley Davidson, 1925 S.Moorland Rd., New Berlin
WHEN: Through Sept. 2
MORE: www.houseofharley,com; www.halshad.com
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