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Riding in style—local dealership changes hands


Geoff Wanamaker took over ownership of All-American Harley-Davidson December 1.

Hughesville, MD - The road to success can be quite a ride and it’s wise to wear a crash helmet. The latest stop on Annapolis native Geoff Wanamaker’s rapid journey in the Southern Maryland business community is a very prominent one. The region’s hub—Hughesville—and major road—Route 5—are home to All-American Harley-Davidson. An avid motorcyclist, Wanamaker, whose other ventures are automobile dealerships in Calvert, Charles and Anne Arundel counties, now has the landmark motorcycle dealership as part of the Bayside Auto Group.

Wanamaker was a customer before he ever became the dealership’s owner. And it didn’t hurt that he knew the owner. “Don [Smolimski] and I have known each other a long time,” Wanamaker said. “He approached me a few months ago. We were able to put a deal together and we took over December 1. It gave us a chance to expand our footprint. It was a natural fit.”

Wanamaker’s other dealerships are Bayside Toyota, Chevrolet, Scion in Prince Frederick; Bayside Nissan in Annapolis and Kia of Waldorf.

Location of the Harley-Davidson dealership—comprised of a 44,000 square-foot building in the Hughesville Revitalization Zone, across the highway from the tract that will soon become the new campus for the College of Southern Maryland—is ideal. In addition to drawing customers from the three Southern Maryland counties, All-American has a solid customer base in the Northern Neck of Virginia, Wanamaker said.

Terms of the transaction with the previous owner are confidential, Wanamaker stated. He did reveal, “it’s my biggest investment ever.”

While Wanamaker said there is no specific prototype customer, he explained that “the majority are hard-working people who like to ride.” While many motor vehicle owners chafe at the notion of driving coast to coast and instead opt for air or rail travel, many Harley-Davidson owners are so passionate about the vehicle they will ride across the country and back. “When you have someone who’s willing to tattoo ‘Harley-Davidson’ on themselves, you have a committed consumer,” said Wanamaker.

Will the sluggish economy deter even the most committed consumer from purchasing a Harley-Davidson? Wanamaker doesn’t think so. “I think the economy is coming around,” he said. “I think we have an opportunity to double the sales. Southern Maryland is a beautiful place to ride a motorcycle, with great destinations within two hours. To have that in our own backyard—we like being a part of that.”

The transition in ownership appears to have been a smooth one. “We’ve kept everybody,” said Wanamaker. “We’re going to grow it. These are hardworking folks. It’s a good base. It’s always people first. We have the right people.”

While sales are critical to success, a dealership’s service is vital for survival. “It’s part of customer retention,” said Wanamaker. “It’s the number one focus for us—a lot of focus on service and parts.”

Wanamaker pointed out that all of the Bayside Auto Group locations have undergone expansions in their service departments, with training for staff a top priority.

The Harley-Davidson dealership purchase came as Bayside Auto Group was wrapping up the arduous task of expanding its Prince Frederick location from 23,000 to 62,000 square feet. “There were a lot of challenges,” said Wanamaker, who explained adherence to the county’s standards for signage, setbacks and stormwater management took longer than originally anticipated. “It took a year to get the process going.”

The expanded location, Wanamaker indicated, was part of the process for making the Prince Frederick Town Center relevant to Calvert’s economy. The Prince Frederick location employs about 100 people and does $80 million in sales annually. “We need to grow,” Wanamaker said.

In addition to being a substantial private sector employer, Bayside is very involved in the community, working with United Way of Calvert County, the local Kiwanis Club, End Hunger in Calvert and many other altruistic causes.

Expanding existing dealerships will be important to addressing consumer demands in the years to come, Wanamaker believes.  Over 17 million automobiles are expected to be sold nationwide in the coming year and by 2020 the number is expected to reach 20 million. “Dealers have to expand their capacity,” he said, noting the number of dealerships is not likely to increase.

With that said, Wanamaker did reveal that Bayside Auto Group is still mulling over the possibility of establishing a location in St. Mary’s County. Wanamaker said the group has site plan approval for a potential location there but has not determined whether they will follow through.

For now, the challenge is building on the success of All-American, the region’s lone Harley-Davidson dealership. “It [dealership] has a wider area, but it’s competitive,” said Wanamaker. “It’s all about value.”

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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