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Big-bore Harley dealer aims to be a destination

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Farmington Hills — Harley-Davidson motorcycles is perhaps the ultimate lifestyle brand, and one of the nation’s largest Harley dealerships aims to be a lifestyle destination with a brewpub and restaurant just off the showroom floor.

The $9 million Motor City Harley-Davidson superstore opens Friday after four months of work transforming the long-vacant former Sam’s Club at 24800 Haggerty. By early next year, owner Tom Celani and general manager Craig Collins will partner with with Norm LePage, an owner of Birmingham-based Griffin Claw Brewing Company, on a restaurant and brewpub in the dealership.

When the brewpub opens, Collins said customers will be able to have a beer while walking around the showroom.

Celani said the new store is one of the 10 largest in the country. The 35,000-square-foot showroom can hold about half of Collins’ 400-bike inventory. A shop, winter storage facility and outdoor area for rider training is just steps from the showroom floor.

Collins intends to hold monthly events at the dealership to attract new customers. He wants his dealership to be a travel destination.

“If it’s just becoming about the price, then you’ve lost what it’s all about,” Collins said. “I want to crush the stereotype that this (brand) is just a bunch of old bikers.”

Selling bikes isn’t about taking orders anymore, he said. It’s all about boosting the customer experience.

The dealership, which now employs 70, will be a regional attraction, he said. Twenty Harley-Davidson employees transferred from around the country to work at the new facility.

For at least the first weekend of operation, Craig Collins hopes the music can compete with the motors at the superstore.

Friday through Sunday of this week at the dealership, the Motor City Music and Food Festival will serve up just what the name implies.

Scott Stapp of Creed, Sebastian Bach of Skid Row and Ace Frehley of Kiss are the musical headliners on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, respectively. Eighteen bands total will play over the weekend.

Hours for the festival are 5-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday and noon-9 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free, but a stunt show behind the dealership costs $25.

Collins expects to have somewhere around 1,000 motorcycles parked in the massive lot for Friday morning’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

He intends to sell some bikes during the grand opening. “You better believe it,” he said. “I want to dominate this market.”

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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau