Motorcycle Times Inc. includes the House of Harley-Davidson in Anchorage, Denali Harley-Davidson in Wasilla, and Kenai Peninsula Harley-Davidson in Soldotna. Barry Matteson will be passing the long-standing business on to his daughter Dia Matteson this summer. Barry is well known for his activism in the motorcycle community, contributions to local charities such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and involvement in a huge variety of events and causes throughout Alaska.
MOTORCYCLE TIMES, INC. HISTORY
In 1970, Barry Matteson, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, was employed by Universal Services in Anchorage. Unable to afford the “Harley” of his dreams, he rode a 650cc Triumph. Late during the summer of 1970, upon returning from a family outing in Ninilchik, he learned that his Triumph had been stolen. Six weeks later the bike was returned to him, retrieved from the bottom of a gravel pit where thieves attempted to “strip it” using a sledge hammer and a crescent wrench. Obviously the bike was not worth repairing, but would make good “chopper material.”
Barry set out to learn about building a “chopper” by buying every magazine available that might give him information and sources for parts. Magazines and parts were both hard to come by in those days. He noticed in the few ads for custom parts which did appear, that the bottom note read “dealer inquiries invited”. Barry’s desire for the custom cycle became “Barry’s Custom Cycle”; a part time business in a one-car garage on Oklahoma Street in Muldoon. In March of 1971, the Triumph sold for $250 and that covered the expense of a business license, stationary, paint, a heater for the garage, and a few parts to hang on the freshly painted red, white, and blue walls. Small ads in local newspapers got the business started.
The boss at Universal Services caught wind of the operation and gave Barry an ultimatum: “Work for USI or for himself.” Barry made the choice to stay with “Barry’s Custom Cycle.” Also in 1971, the local Harley-Davidson dealer decided to give up the Harley line. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company then placed an ad in a local paper looking for a new dealer. Barry answered the ad that year and pursued the offer until 1975 when he was finally given the franchise. The name was changed to “The House of Harley-Davidson.”
By this time, the house and garage in Muldoon had been sold and the proceeds were used to lease a building on Spenard Road next to “Chilkoot Charlie’s.” Landlord problems precipitated another move in 1977 to a small shop on Chugach Way, just half a block off Spenard Road across from “PJ’s.”
Barry had worked on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from 1974 to 1977. He used his paychecks to pay off his debts, to build his inventory, and to buy the building on Chugach Way. He worked at the business during his time off to keep it in operation.
In 1981 the business moved to its present location on Spenard Road. In 1995 the two adjoining lots were purchased by MTI to be used for service and storage. In 1996 a major store remodel to the main structure was completed. This included converting Barry and Karen’s living quarters on the third floor into a beautiful clothing and accessories store.
With plans to build an adequate facility to house the company’s continued growth, in 1998 a parcel of land was purchased on Dowling Road. Customers and neighbors in the Spenard area were disappointed to hear of the possible move. In 1999 the old “Tradewinds/Polar Inn”, adjacent to the current facility, went on the market. Barry and Karen procured it and built a 15,000 square foot expansion with a completion date of August, 2002. They celebrated our “Grand Opening” in June of 2002.
In 1997 Kenai Peninsula Harley-Davidson in Soldotna opened. In 2000 the KPHD store moved to an exciting, new 8,000 square foot Harley-Davidson shop on the Sterling Highway.
In December of 2004 Denali Harley-Davidson in Wasilla opened a new full-service shop in Wasilla, located just off of the Parks Highway on Hyer Road.
The business has grown from a sole proprietorship with three employees in 1975, to three stores operating under one corporation, “Motorcycle Times, Inc.” MTI now employs over 40 people during the riding season. MTI supports community involvement as well as local chapters of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) and ABATE of Alaska. They have been instrumental in the development of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation training and education program in Anchorage, and provide “Riders Edge” training programs in Soldotna and Wasilla. They are members of the Chambers of Commerce, in Anchorage, Soldotna and Wasilla, the Anchorage Economic & Development Corporation, the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Alaska Motorcycle Dealers Association, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
DIA MATTESON BIOGRAPHY:
Dia is about to become the youngest female Harley dealer in the world when she takes over the business from her dad Barry Matteson in July, 2012.
Some of my earliest memories are walking around the House of Harley in Spenard. My dad spent most of his time at the business, which was easy to do since we were all living upstairs in a modified apartment built from a few rooms of a bed and breakfast. Hog Heaven, “Here’s your bed…get your own damn breakfast!” the coupon said that we provided to the guests in our small B&B upstairs from the House of Harley. They would take their coupon across the street to Gwennies to enjoy an oversized meal that would slam shut an artery. Eventually the business expanded and the upstairs was renovated to be more display space for the Motorclothes department. Before I was old enough to work there, I was old enough to clean. I would come in with my sister and clean the break rooms and floors and anything else that needed cleaning. Eventually I was old enough and eager to enter the working world at the ripe age of 14. I started upstairs in the clothing department where I would sell clothes and cashier. I always took pride in my work and did the best I could to make my father proud. I continued to work during the summers and on weekends during the school year through my high school years learning different parts of the business. After we had the major remodel done in 2001 we had a cashier station separate from the clothing department so I worked both of those positions. I worked with some fun characters who taught me some of the ways of the world as I worked in parts learning more about the bikes and eventually landing in Service the summer after my junior year in high school. I found I loved the challenge of the fast paced and always demanding service world. I liked to learn about the bikes, the mechanical aspects and how to sell parts and accessories at the counter. I actually enjoyed figuring out how to calm down the upset customers and help them get what they really wanted. It is amazing what you can learn in a shop full of men! The techs were all very kind to me and gave me more confidence in my riding ability. They encouraged me to try new bikes and be a better rider.
I got my motorcycle license at 16 and was riding a Buell Blast that summer. By my Senior year in high school I was sure that I wanted to be in the Harley business. I had met a boy from South Carolina, so like many young people I decided to attend college out of state, to spread my wings and see if I could make it on my own. By then I had been riding a lot of different bikes and had purchased my first “big” bike, a XB9SX Buell City Cross. I had it delivered to the dealership in Anderson, South Carolina where I was attending Anderson College (later accredited to University status) and studying Business Management. The school was small and very Baptist, not too many biker chicks with tattoos to say the least. I enjoyed my time there and learned a lot about myself and how to live on my own. During the summers I would continue to work at the shop in sales and wherever I was needed. After my second year down there I decided I was ready to move back and finish school at UAA where the tuition was a little cheaper and the Business School was accredited and a better program.
I eventually finished up my Bachelors Degree and was working as the interim Service Manager and running a small booth on the weekends at the Downtown Market when I was promoted to General Manager. As the GM I found myself eager to fix all the problems I had seen over the years in the business, but quickly learning that some things aren’t so easy to fix. During my first year as GM I got to go on the ride of a lifetime. I was thinking about getting my Masters Degree but decided to take one semester off. During that August I rode down to Milwaukee from Alaska for HD’s 105th Anniversary. I had a 2007 Street Glide and mostly inadequate gear. I had never ridden any significant distance probably the farthest ride was a few hundred miles. I was about to ride across the country!
The ride to Milwaukee was amazing despite the bad weather the whole way through Canada. I was challenged every day to keep a smile on my face as I froze my butt off and struggled through long construction areas with horrible road conditions. I never dropped my bike and made it through Canada without a scratch. I celebrated my 22nd birthday on the road with a pop tart at a gas station! I made some lifelong friends and some great acquaintances along the way. We rode every day until we finally arrived in Milwaukee where the streets were filled with thousands of bikers! Freeways would be moving at a snail’s pace as thousands of bikes flooded the roads to attend the hundreds of events that were taking place during the Anniversary Party. It was hotter than hell as the area was having unusually warm temperatures for this time of year. But after the crap we rode through in Canada I welcomed the heat. The constant rumble of Harleys and the packed streets with bikers was awe inspiring and I was so proud and excited to be a part of this culture. I haven’t gone on a ride like that again, but we will be riding down next August for the celebration of Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary and I am sure it will be an even better experience!
The next spring I enrolled in the MBA program at UAA and started my journey to be the first in my family with a Masters Degree. Surprisingly my father didn’t really want me to go back to school. He was eager to keep me at work full time and thought I would be too overwhelmed. I continued to work full time and only went to school part time so I could focus on our business and learn as much as I could from my dad. During the past four years I participated in our 20 Clubs and learned so much from other HD dealers from around the country. We compared financials and I started to see the ratios, trends and numbers that were clear indicators for our business. Business in Alaska is unique, but the Harley-Davidson business in Alaska is especially unique! Throughout the years it became even more obvious that the scenarios that we studied in class were nothing compared to real world experience. Managing people is challenging and still the area I want to focus on the most. I feel that an organization is only as strong as the people working in it and that the work environment starts at the top.
As a business we focus on providing our customers with a premium but fun experience every time they come through the doors. Our store has become somewhat of a social hub where folks come in just to hang out and have a cup of coffee! What other retail store can say that?! As a business, we have always invested in our company with improvements, gains in technology, employees and programs to benefit our customers. We are not about doing things the cheapest way possible to earn a fast buck. We invest in the relationships we build with our customers to keep them coming back and enjoying doing business with us. Although the economy hasn’t been the best we use times like these to really streamline processes and improve the way we do business. This year has seen some growing pains and changes as we begin the transition into my position as owner, but we are building a strong team and looking into the future.