Climbing off the Sea-doo personal watercraft at Rock Hill Powersports, Tom Cornwell quickly reminded everyone, “No one calls me by that name. Everyone, call me Knucklehead.”
The informality is the way business is done at Rock Hill Powersports, where the line between customer and friend can quickly blur.
During the week, Knucklehead or one of his co-workers can sell a motorcycle, dirt bike or all-terrain vehicle and, by the weekend, be riding with their newest best friend, often at the Carolina Adventure World near Winnsboro.
That’s what separates this business from others, says owner Jerry Cristo. Success is driven by creating a social community.
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“To survive, you have to engage the customer, go to the lake, go hunting, go to the track.”
To create that social community, word-of-mouth referrals are essential, as is Facebook, Cristo said.
Having the social community is also key because you are selling something that is not essential, says general manger Henry Crocker.
“In the car business, you are selling a need. In this business, you are selling a want.”
Expanding the Rock Hill Powersports’ social community has been one of the priorities since Cristo purchased the business in February. He has two similar stores in Charleston and said he bought the former Hager Cycle World location because of growth potential of the business and the region.
Since February, Cristo and Crocker, who worked for Hager from 1999-2003, have been updating and expanding the business.
The showroom has a fresh coat of paint. The parts department has more inventory. The service department has a new mechanic certified to work on a variety of brands. They started a pick-up and delivery option, making it easier for people to get their motorcycles, ATVs or other vehicles or watercraft serviced. They have diversified an already diverse offering of brands.
Brand diversity has traditionally been a selling point for the business. It carries Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, KTM and Yamaha motorcycles, making it easy for those just learning to try a number of bikes.
New brands include the three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder. The eye-catching Spyder has two front wheels and one in the rear. The manufacturer boasts the three-cylinder engine can push the bike from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 4.3 seconds.
The third wheel provides a stable and safe ride, Cristo said.
The Can Am’s different design attracts all sorts of interest, Cristo said, even from Harley-Davidson riders who have stopped him to ask about how fast it is, how it handles and what kind of transmission it has.
The other major addition to inventory is the Sea-doo personal watercraft, an effort to expand the businesses’ reach to Lake Wylie and, owners hope, to Lake Norman in North Carolina, Cornwell said.
With Memorial Day marking the official beginning of the summer season, the staff at Rock Hill Powersports is prepared for people wanting to get outdoors, be it on the road or the water.
In the fall the focus turns to hunting, when Can-Am’s Renegades, Commanders and Outlanders, Honda’s Four Trax, Suzuki’s King Quad and Polaris’ Outlaws and Sportsmen compete for sales.
Over the holidays, dirt bikes and scooters are usually the best sellers.
Regardless of the season, there is one thing that’s drives everyone at Rock Hill Powersports, from customers to coworkers: “We are,” Crocker says, “selling fun.”
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066• firstname.lastname@example.org