Texas and Arizona auto dealer Bert King bought a Charlotte County Harley-Davidson dealership last summer and quickly infused it with a strategy to make it a club-like destination. Strategy components, for what he renamed Bert's Black Widow, include kegs of free beer and bikini-clad girls.
Now King will bring his brand to St. Petersburg, with Bert's Barracuda Harley-Davidson, at 2805 54th Ave. N. King bought the dealership, formerly known as Jim's Harley-Davidson, Aug 19. He bought it from Jamie Lou Rosenkrans, a retired schoolteacher and widow, who ran the dealership for years with her husband, Jim Rosenkrans. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
King says he wasn't looking to expand. But he and Rosenkrans became friendly through the Harley-Davidson ownership network. Rosenkrans, seeking to retire, sought out King before she even listed the dealership for sale. The deal then came together quickly.
Business has since been brisk. King says he sold 34 motorcycles in the first week, and has already hired eight people, to go with the 30 or so already on the payroll. He plans to hire up to 40 more people, in sales, retail and service, in the next few months. “I think we will do a very fast pace business here,” King tells Coffee Talk.
That would mirror Port Charlotte, where he sold 1,700 new or used Harleys in his first 12 months in business under the Bert's Black Widow banner. That's tops among Florida Harley-Davidson dealers, says King, and among the top nationwide. The payroll at Port Charlotte tripled in the last year, from about 20 to 60 employees.
King attributes the Port Charlotte success to his steadfast belief that the iconic Harley-Davidson brand works best when customers don't merely buy motorcycles, but join a tribe. At the St. Petersburg dealership he plans to have free beer all day, ladies nights and free food, drinks and entertainment Saturdays and Sundays, just like in Port Charlotte. “This isn't your typical retail dealership,” King says. “For the customer, this is their yacht club, their golf club, their country club.”
A weekend grand opening event for the St. Petersburg location is scheduled for Sept. 23-25.