Motorcycle dealerships come and go, but to have five of them close all at once is unheard of. Recently, high-end motorcyclists in the Seattle area were shocked to find five NobleRush motorcycle dealerships had been shut down without prior notice.
Sudden closure of Seattle motorcycle dealerships
On September 19, residents learned that five local dealerships had been closed indefinitely. The closed dealerships include two multi-brand dealerships located in Auburn, a Redmond Ducati dealership, and a joint BMW-KTM-Ducati dealership.
No notice was issued. Residents got news of the closures from the dealerships’ former employees, social media posts, and one of the dealerships’ previous owners.
Howard Crow, a Microsoft program manager and owner of the dealerships, could not be reached for comment, with reports indicating that he might be out of the country. The question of why all five dealerships were closed simultaneously is still yet to be answered with a search of court records finding no lawsuits or bankruptcy filings.
The man behind the closures
Howard Crow is a sort of mystery within the motorcycle community in Seattle. According to his LinkedIn profile, Crow has been at Microsoft since 1997 and most recently managed teams for Microsoft Planner and Project Server, among others. Further reports indicate he is an enthusiastic racer though his profile shows no background in the industry.
This did not stop him from buying five motorcycle dealerships. According to Tom Mehren, a writer at Sound Rider which is a monthly motorcycling magazine, the Ducati Seattle dealership was the first one Howard Crow bought in 2012. At the time, the dealership was located close to South Lake Union.
Crow then bought the Bellevue Ducati dealership, which he moved to Redmond, followed by the BMW dealership. His biggest move, however, was in 2017 when he acquired Indian Motorcycle and Hinshaw’s Motorcycle Store, both located in Auburn.
His inexperience was a concern to some members of the area’s biking community. Crow’s decisions drove away longtime employees while the decision to slash prices to boost sales further reduced cash flow in his dealerships.
With the motorcycle business currently struggling, some say this was bound to happen. Consumers tend to try out accessories and bikes in dealerships, only to make purchases online where the prices are much cheaper. The news has left many wondering what it could mean for the area’s motorcycle industry.
What’s next for the motorcycle community?
The closures were a shock to not only the area’s biking community but the motorcycle world as a whole. There was understandable panic and anxiety from several of the dealerships’ customers.
Some had purchased bikes and were not sure if they would get them, while others had dropped their bikes off for maintenance and repairs. Reports of motorcycles being removed from the dealerships over the weekend further added to consumer anxiety.
By this week, several customers had already received their new bikes while others got full refunds. However, it won’t be a similarly happy ending for those who took their bikes in for repairs. According to a former employee, since the dealerships’ service techs are laid off, some customers may get their bikes back in pieces.
Will the dealerships re-open? What will happen to former employees or riders who have to look for a new place to service their bikes? All they can hope for is that the local biking community will recover.