Scottsdale, Ariz., Nov. 6–7—Scottsdale Harley-Davidson was hosting the fourth annual Bob’s Biker Blast, which has been a pretty big blowout in years past, so when a notice went out to the press that there’s a “not to be missed” gig about to go down out on Hayden Road, we scribblers hustled on over to check out the festivities. Against the backdrop of mild fall weather, invited dignitaries like the governor of the state of Arizona as well as the CEO of Harley-Davidson were milling about with familiar faces like Panhead Billy and emcee Jack Shit as a variety of circus performers hung suspended from giant hoops, a talented gal cruised the grounds while flinging fire pots from chains, and a band filled the patio with background music. And that was just day one of the two-day event.
As it turned out, the weekend kicked off with an official ribbon cutting for the grand opening on Friday afternoon. Owner Bob Parsons pulled out all the stops as bombs were bursting in air at the end of “The Star Spangled Banner” and he took the podium to announce that even though he wasn’t officially allowed to say the words “biggest dealership in the world,” he was happy to say that, in reality, Scottsdale actually is the largest Harley-Davidson dealership in the world. Harley-Davidson’s President and CEO Matt Levatich stood in the wings laughing and giving the thumbs up as Parsons beamed.
Scottsdale H-D’s General Manager Doug Roessing served as master of ceremonies and introduced Arizona Governor Doug Ducey as well as the city’s mayor, Jim Lane, before the state’s well-known sheriff Joe Arpaio took the podium. Next to the famous Wyatt Earp, there isn’t a more notorious lawman in the entire country. Known for his less-than coddling treatment of local inmates who he requires wear pink underwear and eat meatless meals as he houses them in a tent city even during the 120-degree heat of the summer, the colorful Arpaio took his sweet time in lamenting over his pulling over Elvis Presley on his Harley back in the 1950’s and his affiliation with Parsons over the years. He also jokingly threatened to not return the leather Harley jacket the dealership had loaned him for the photo ops and he appeared to make everyone nervous as he enjoyed his time in the limelight. Mayor Jim Lane resorted to heckling the sheriff at one point, which didn’t faze Arpaio one bit. Matt Levatich, however, tried to focus on the Harley-Davidson brand’s family values and commitment to customer service while the big scissors stood at the ready.
Parsons, the founder of GoDaddy whose estimated wealth (according to Forbes) is roughly $2.4 billion, also owns GO AZ and a stroll down the block offers trips across Ducati, BMW and Yamaha showroom floors, just to name a few of the nine other brands he offers for sale. As of this spring, he also got into the business of manufacturing golf clubs, just in case you want to spend $5,000 on a set of sticks to use on the golf course he also owns. According to the local business journal, Parsons has sunk an estimated $200 million into real estate in the Phoenix area and it appears that construction on the Scottsdale property will continue with the old Hacienda dealership building next to be razed.
The newly-constructed Harley-Davidson building that encompasses 150,000 sq. ft. of flooring is spread out over two stories plus a basement, and sprawls across almost 4.5 acres. It’s obvious from afar that this ain’t your typical dealership. Considering that the average Costco covers about 143,000 sq. ft., or three football fields minus the end zones, you can only imagine what cruising the Scottsdale property involves. With almost 500 motorcycles in inventory—over 100 motorcycles displayed on the main floor, almost that many outside and over 275 more in a downstairs showroom—there’s no shortage of model options for the new bike shopper. There’s a photo booth set up with an Arizona-themed backdrop and a state-of-the-art soundproof audio theatre for customers to test out stereo equipment while not disrupting the peace of the quieter crowd.
A “rumble zone” invites shoppers to start up various bikes to hear the engine sounds while a special exhaust fan eliminates fumes, and seating is scattered throughout the building in case your significant other isn’t as into shopping as you are. Still to come is a boutique, Leather and Lace, that will feature lingerie and there are plenty of parts, accessories and just plain “stuff” to sate any enthusiast’s yen. There’s absolutely nothing a Harley-Davidson fan can’t find here, and that’s just the ground floor.
Upstairs is an arcade and customer lounge area where you can hang out sipping free coffee and use the free Wi-Fi as your friends add to their tattoo collection at the tat parlor. There’s a patio to catch a breath of fresh air right next to the chapel where you can arrange to seal your fate by exchanging vows in the wedding chapel. We noticed a certificate of ministry for Robert Parsons, ordained on October 6, 2015, hung on the wall and as it just so happened, Parsons performed his first wedding onsite right after the ribbon cutting.
Meanwhile, down in the basement, is a 48-seat movie theater. Scattered throughout the dealership are hydraulic lifts so bikes can be raised for better viewing, eliminating the need to crawl around on the floor to scope out the cool stuff. No convenience was overlooked while Parsons was considering what to include in a facility that’s not just for bikers anymore. No siree, this dealership is motorcycle entertainment at its finest and everyone’s invited to come hang out, even if your entourage includes a baby stroller instead of a Fat Boy. And there were plenty of those cruising the aisles between those sparkly new motorcycles. Baby strollers, that is.
Mixed in with all this, of course, is the nitty-gritty part of motorcycling. If you’re just in town visiting, there’s a large stable of rental bikes to choose from and if you have an ailing bike, they can help you out there, too. There’s a service department that is nothing shy of incredible and the word “huge” is an understatement when describing the area where 16 mechanics bays feature two lifts each, meaning that 32 motorcycles can be wrenched on at once.
Spooky Fast Customs, a bike shop just down the street that deals with custom bikes that’s also owned by Parsons, has a booth on site where an artist can whip up a custom design for your tins and airbrush them right there.
Saturday’s fun included a charity ride for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and, as an added bonus, Kim Coates was on hand to meet fans. You know, that cool guy who portrayed the crazed character from that scary TV motorcycle club, the Sons of Anarchy? “Tig” was a favored biker bad from Tinsel Town who added a touch of “real” to the show because he was one of the few that actually rides a motorcycle in his personal life. He is, however, nothing like the creepy guy he played on the show and spent a few hours graciously posing for photos with delighted riders.
Parsons was later spotted hanging out at the well-known biker watering hole, the Hideaway in Cave Creek, where he was buying drinks and chatting up riders about the concert scheduled for later that evening back at the dealership. Free to those with a rider’s endorsement and their passenger, the Doobie Brothers were joined by Michael McDonald for a night that absolutely set the desert on fire. The Doobies have a huge following in Arizona and are so appreciated by local riders that an energy that can only be described as electric can be seen every time the band comes to the Valley of the Sun. Of course, the fact that the concert was opened up by a round of freebies launched into the crowd, a troupe of scantily-clad ladies and a repeat of the patriotic display from Friday’s festivities that helped get the crowd ramped up and added to the frenzy couldn’t be ignored, either. Before the band’s performance, Bob Parsons took the stage—sporting a USMC tat commemorating his service during Vietnam that was inked right there at the dealership—to hand over proceeds from the ride earlier in the day. Combined with a donation from the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, a whopping $1,000,000 was presented to the hospital. It’s pretty hard to follow a cool announcement like that, but the Doobie Brothers definitely got the crowd to listen to the music.
The next time you’re looking for something to do on a sunny afternoon, you might want to take a ride out to visit the biggest biker Disneyland on earth. We guarantee you’ll find something to whet your appetite. (www.hdofscottsdale.com)