When Shawn and Kat Hunter decided to start their own business, they kicked around a couple of ideas before deciding on a motorcycle accessories shop.
“Why not do something you already enjoy?” asked Shawn Hunter, who’s ridden a Triumph motorcycle for years. “Something that you’d almost do for free.”
Open Road Motorcycle, 792 N. West St., has a bit of the feel of a clubhouse.
There’s coffee on the burner (a blend from Jamaica, one of the couple’s favorite vacation spots), a stack of fliers advertising group rides and charity events, and photographs of customers on the walls.
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On the sidewalk outside stands a smoker’s pit fashioned out of a motorcycle gas tank.
Of course, the Hunters are in business to make money, so there are also leather jackets, vests and chaps, helmets, bandannas, patches, motorcycle parts and a variety of motorcycle-themed jewelry and gifts for sale.
The Hunters had worked in advertising sales for TV and radio stations before opening Open Road Motorcycle in the summer of 2010. Shawn had also managed an automotive glass business.
They’ve tried to build their inventory around items that motorcycle dealerships don’t carry, finding products through discussions with other riders and research on the Internet.
“I take care of all the pretty stuff,” Kat said, pointing to the jewelry and clothes, “and he does the parts.”
For instance, Open Road carries a custom exhaust system for Honda Gold Wing motorcycles.
“The big dealers don’t deal with it because it’s just (made by) a guy in his backyard, but he’s truly an artist,” Shawn said. “There are a lot of unique products out there.”
Knowing what, and how much, to buy is the key.
“It’s tough to grow and to keep up and not overextend yourself,” Shawn said.
The Hunters also handle consignment sales and would like to add motorcycle sales and service in the future.
Shawn said the tough economy has driven the owners of some high-end motorcycles to sell them, but it’s also caused more people to ride as a way of saving money on gas.
“Once they do start riding, they realize how much fun it is,” Shawn said.
Open Road Motorcycle originally opened farther south on West Street. The Hunters moved in February, in part because the revving of engines didn’t seem to fit in with “women-oriented” businesses nearby. They were waiting for delivery of signs this week that should increase their visibility in the new location.
They were also waiting for the boost that good weather normally brings, whether it’s riders wanting a new set of tires or a cup holder.
“People tend to gear up a little,” Shawn said of the added business that comes with spring.