Employing The Power of Persuasion to Achieve Organizational Objectives Contact Us Today! (661) 538-1100

Your Media Relations &
Communication Experts

Fresno Harley Dealer in Flux


Motorcycle business has not said whether dealer pact will be renewed.

Published online on Thursday, Sep. 17, 2009
By Sanford Nax / The Fresno Bee

On the same day the Fresno City Council commended a longtime motorcycle dealer for its proposed downtown expansion, the business announced that Harley-Davidson corporate officials haven't blessed the plan, because they don't like the central city location.

Mathews Harley-Davidson Inc. has been near Belmont and Blackstone avenues since 1961. Members of the family that owns the business say corporate officials in Milwaukee have not said whether their dealer agreement will be renewed -- even though the business has plans for a $1 million expansion. It would double the size of the dealership, enlarge the showroom, boost service capabilities and create a museum of historic and iconic motorcycles.

The dealership agreement expires Dec. 31.

"We are waiting for them to define our future," said Melissa Walters, the granddaughter of dealership founders Harold and Eva Mathews. The dealership has 11 employees, six of them family members.

Walters and other family members urged the City Council, customers and supporters -- who numbered 75 at the council meeting -- to send letters and e-mails of support to corporate executives.

The council proclaimed Thursday "Mathews Harley-Davidson Day," citing its long service to downtown and to the community.

The dealership is fighting to stay put.

"Protect our jobs. Save our Hogs. Keep Mathews Harley-Davidson Open," the Fresno dealership proclaims on its Web site, Mathewshd.com. There is a link on the site to send messages to corporate officials.

City Council Member Cynthia Sterling said Mathews Harley-Davidson has shown its commitment to downtown by participating in charities, including an annual toy drive at Christmas.

Sterling pledged the city's support and promised letters would be sent to Harley-Davidson officials in Milwaukee.

Harley-Davidson officials have grumbled about the downtown site for five years, even as they approved a dealer extension in 2004 and awarded the family members free trips for meeting or exceeding revenue projections.

Walters said Harley-Davidson won't "point blank say why they don't like" the location, but has suggested the business move.

A spokeswoman for Harley-Davidson said the company doesn't comment on issues involving dealerships.

Former Fresno City Council Member Jerry Duncan, a loyal customer of the Mathews dealership, said he thinks the gritty downtown location does not match the image Harley-Davidson wants to portray.

"If Mathews was in northwest Fresno, this would not be an issue," he said.

Walters said the dealership won't move. "Business is booming. We are not suffering," she said. "We are happy. We have a commitment to downtown, and we are near all the freeways. We could close our doors, walk away and be a successful family. However, it is our passion to continue being a family business for generations to come."

Harley rider Jeff Roberts said the Mathews dealership is an important component of the city's core.

"Even though Harley-Davidson is international, this is a home-grown company. It is as much a part of downtown as the water tower," he said. "When a local company wants to invest money in downtown, that's a good thing."

Our Culture

Case Studies

Our Clients