IndyWest Harley-Davidson Celebrates Nearly 20 Years In Hendricks County
Photographer: Amy Payne
You know people are eager to welcome a new business to town when 150 people gather in the parking lot for the grand opening. Such was the case in November of 2000 when IndyWest Harley-Davidson opened its doors in Plainfield.
“All day the place was packed — just wall-to-wall people,” says General Manager Eric Schindler. “I’d never seen anything like that in a retail environment.”
Right from the start, what set them apart is that customers could walk in and buy a bike immediately without having to order one and wait months for it to come in. Over the past 19 years, they’ve increased in size, erecting two separate warehouses.
“Our strength is our inventory,” Schindler says.
When it comes to dealership size, no one else comes close in the Hoosier state. There are several other dealerships in Indiana, and they all work well together to deliver great customer service. They do this by drop-boxing their inventory so each store knows what the others have.
“We don’t just sell our inventory. We sell theirs as well,” Schindler says. “That transfers to the consumer as more choices. Inventory means volume and volume means better buying power. We can generally accomplish most every need that a customer has within reason.”
IndyWest Harley-Davidson was originally planned to be housed in Speedway where the Sam’s Club is located, but members of a homeowner’s association were concerned about the clientele that would visit the store.
“There’s a stigma associated with Harleys where people envision this grumpy old guy behind the counter who will bark at you for asking the wrong question, but we are very anti that type of culture,” Schindler says.
Rather than engage in a fight with the homeowners in Speedway, however, the company looked for a different location.
“We found a much nicer area here in Hendricks County that provides an easy-on, easy-off the highway,” Schindler adds. “We’re happy with where we are. We’ve been welcomed with open arms by the community.”
Their popularity shows, having set many records when it comes to motorcycle sales, customer satisfaction, new to sport riders and test rides. They even offer a comprehensive three-day Riding Academy where they take those who have perhaps never been on a motorcycle and train them on the ins and outs of riding. The course encompasses both classroom learning as well as course training right on their lot. At the conclusion of the academy, riders are put behind the wheel — or the handlebars, as it were — to take a skills test.
“We’re certified by the Motorcycle Safety Institute, Ride Safe Indiana, so if you pass our course, you’re qualified to go to the BMV and obtain your endorsement on your license,” Schindler says.
Their Riding Academy coaches teach, rain or shine. In fact, Schindler recalls a downpour Saturday when six students still showed up for their training. Though it’s intimidating to learn to ride in such conditions, the fact is that bad weather pops up so it’s actually great training ground.
When it comes to riding, customer demographics are rather broad. According to Schindler, the core client is the 35- to 50-year-old male, though that’s changing.
“Women and ethnic riders have grown immensely,” he says. “Younger riders have picked up, too.”
He thinks popularity is mounting as more people learn just how awesome the experience is. Schindler describes the thrill of donning a leather jacket and mounting the bike for the first ride once the weather chills.
“There’s nothing like the smell of leather on a cold day,” says Schindler, who loves riding down to Brown County as the brisk, crisp air hits his face.
“I enjoy inhaling that sweet rotting leafy smell,” he says. “It’s like you’re in the dead center of nature. I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it.”
Schindler maintains that there is a special bond among motorcycle riders and particularly among Harley fans.
“Where does it come from? I don’t know except for Americana,” Schindler says.
He suspects it hearkens back to the mentality of WWII and man’s desire to control heavy machinery.
“Harleys bring back that feeling because these aren’t dainty little toys. They’re 500- to 800-pound machines,” he says. “It boils down to, ‘I’m going to control this thing or it’s going to control me.’ When we master the machine, we’re operating and loving life.”
Another thing Harley owners like to do is give back to good causes. IndyWest Harley-Davidson has participated in a number of rides to benefit various organizations. For instance, they’ve done the RAMS Ride for Multiple Sclerosis and the Miracle Ride for Riley Hospital for Children. They’ve also teamed up with various organizations to benefit pit bull rescues as they are big animal lovers.
IndyWest Harley-Davidson sells all different types of motorcycles. What clients buy depends on their riding needs.
“If you’re doing eight hours of traveling, you need the high-performance touring suspension because your body is going to get beaten up,” Schindler says. “But if you’re just taking it through town to your buddy’s house, you don’t need to pull around an extra 300 pounds of weight.”
Either way, clients ride away on a piece of heaven. That’s why Schindler loves his job.
“We’re selling happiness,” says Schindler, who describes riding as “rolling Prozac.”
A biker for the past 35 years, he had his first experience on a buddy’s 50cc motorcycle, a 5-speed. Though he learned the clutch real quick, while he was riding it, it dawned on him that he didn’t know the location of the brakes.
“We were cruising through the middle of a cornfield when we came up on a wooden fence,” Schindler says. “I realized I didn’t know how to stop this thing and we went right through the barrier.”
The crash didn’t temper his joy for riding, however. In fact, he couldn’t wait to go again.
“I was one of those guys where if it had wheels and a motor, I wanted to be on it,” he says.
Hendricks County resident Jill Lindsey can relate. A motorcycle buff her whole life, she owned a sports bike before purchasing a 2016 Fat Boy at IndyWest Harley-Davidson.
“I absolutely love riding. I just love speed,” Lindsey says. “When you’re on a bike, it’s such a feeling of freedom.”
She notes that as a woman, riding gives her a great deal of confidence. She started off zipping around her neighborhood and when she felt more comfortable, she ventured out onto the streets. Ladies often approach her to say that they would love to ride but are too afraid to try. Lindsey encourages them to squash their fear and go for it.
“I truly love the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy,” Lindsey says. “I can’t imagine not riding.”
Harley enthusiast Dave Collins agrees.
“Only bikers understand why dogs hang out the window,” says Collins, who has been riding since he was 16 years old. “Life is better behind handlebars.”
IndyWest Harley-Davidson is located at 6201 Cambridge Way in Plainfield. For more information, call 317-279-0062 or visit them online at indywesthd.com.