Originally created 08/19/00

Cycle icon rides across town



Vic's Harley-Davidson is ready to pull up the kickstand and rumble into Columbia County.

Vic's Harley-Davidson has been parked on the 500 block of Ellis Street in downtown Augusta since Vic and Betty Crenshaw started the business in 1956. In July, Craig Kane signed a purchase contract to buy the business from Jerry Ashmore Sr., who has owned it since the early 1990s and plans to retire.

Mr. Kane will break ground in September on a new store, which will expand the size of the business from 8,500 to 25,000 square feet. The new store will be located on six acres on Frontage Road with access to Interstate 20 from the Belair Road and Wheeler Road exits. The store is expected to open in February.

"The interstate exposure will at least double our business," Mr. Kane said. "When Harley enthusiast go from town to town, they like to stop at the local Harley store and see things that their local store doesn't carry. They won't turn off the interstate and try to find us downtown, but they certainly would get off the exit and give it a shot."

With the new store, Mr. Kane plans to change the name to Augusta Harley-Davidson. Mr. Kane said the store will be similar to new Harley-Davidson superstores located in major cities throughout the United States.

"We'll have twice as much inventory in terms of parts, accessories and motor clothing," he said.

He also expects to open a satellite store in Aiken within two years.

Vic's has been a fixture in the downtown Augusta area and a sponsor of the local H.O.G. Club (Harley Owners Group). Vic's also has been a major supplier of motorcycles to Richmond and Columbia counties' law enforcement agencies.

"It's got quite a legacy in our community," Mr. Kane said.

Mr. Kane, 40, has lived in Augusta since 1994 and has a background in retail automobile sales. He began riding motorcycles at age 12 and became a Harley enthusiast six years ago.

He's not alone.

Harley-Davidson has developed a loyal following whose numbers are expanding rapidly.

"Harley has always had the look and the sound behind the machine," Mr. Kane said. "Every little boy just loves a fast car, and Harley is a good-sounding, nice-looking machine. Anybody that appreciates fine machinery appreciates a Harley-Davidson."

Harley-Davidson Motor Co., the only major U.S.-based motorcycle manufacturer, produces heavyweight motorcycles and offers a complete line of motorcycle parts, accessories, apparel and general merchandise. For the past 14 years, Harley-Davidson Inc. (NYSE: HDI) has posted record profits. The company's second-quarter sales (ending June 25, 2000) were $755 million, an increase of 24 percent from the second quarter last year.

The growth of the company partly can be attributed to its increasing appeal to baby-boomers and professionals, Mr. Kane said. The average Harley-Davidson rider is 47 years old and has an income of more than $50,000 a year.

"It's becoming an upscale product, and they've got a full line of accessories, clothing and all that to go along with the bikes," Mr. Kane said. "It's almost like a culture."

Harley-Davidson will be 100 years old in 2003.

"There's not a lot of businesses that have been around 100 years," Mr. Kane said. "It's an American icon."

For more information, check out the company Web site at www.harley-davidson.com.

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or melhall@augustachronicle.com.