The coronavirus pandemic has changed our everyday life, but it doesn't need to change who we are. So, in addition to our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus, OnMilwaukee will continue to report on cool, fun, inspiring and strange stories from our city and beyond. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed and stay joyful. We're all in this together. #InThisTogetherMKE
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, we’ve told you about the plight of workers in the gig economy, restaurants and bars, and small business owners, alike.
Another sector that is being especially hard hit is car dealerships – and in Milwaukee, motorcycle sales, too.
House of Harley-Davidson, 6221 W. Layton Ave., has enacted a plan to keep its sales and service workers employed throughout this difficult time. Fortunately for the dealership, owner Jeff Binkert notes that the police motorcycles it services remain essential. But he also points out that House of Harley has taken additional steps to keep the motors running and get his customers ready for riding season.
We caught up with Binkert to learn how.
Tell me about your plan to keep your employees working during this crisis. Why are you committed to this?
Jeff Binkert: Our first concern is our employees, which means we care about their physical health, but also their financial health. We know other businesses are laying off employees, and we know there is tremendous anxiety right now, no matter what the industry. We refer to ourselves and our customers as "House family" and that is the core value of our business. We have reduced our hours of operation by 30% on a weekly basis and we are employing all safety recommendations from the CDC.
How do you sell motorcycles when salespeople and customers can’t meet face-to-face?
Per the Governor's order, we are considered an essential business. We service the law enforcement motorcycle units of 16 Wisconsin law enforcement agencies, including MPD – City of Milwaukee (61 bikes), MCSO – Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (10 bikes), Wauwatosa PD (3 bikes), Franklin PD (2 bikes), Walworth County Sheriff’s Office (1 bike), Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (3 bikes), Brown Deer PD (1 bike ), Greendale PD (1 bike), South Milwaukee PD (1 bike ), Wisconsin State Patrol (14 bikes ), West Allis PD (1 bike), Mount Pleasant PD (3 bikes), New Berlin PD (2 bikes), City of Racine PD (2 bikes), Racine County Sheriff (2 bikes) and Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office (2 bikes).
Are you finding that Harley riders are especially loyal when it comes to supporting the brand?
Since 1903, the Harley-Davidson brand has weathered 117 years of political, financial and medical crises, although nothing quite like what we're seeing today. The brand represents personal freedom, and people are realizing right now that freedom is more important than ever.
How else have you been forced to get creative during these unprecedented times?
For standard operations, we have adopted new policies and procedures under the guidelines of the CDC. Social distancing, repeated sanitization, limitation to 10 people or less in meetings, etc. As an option to customers, we have also adopted curbside pick up and drop off for service, and have been processing motorcycle sales via telephone and documentation via mail, overnight mail or email. A full range of merchandise, parts and riding apparel is also available on our website, houseofharley.com.
How can Milwaukee help the House of Harley?
Our team is dedicated to helping people continue to dream of the motorcycle riding season ahead. We are supporting our employees and our customers. We are grateful to those who support us now, as well.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.