Dothan Harley-Davidson – It’s more than a Harley Dealership!
Dothan Harley-Davidson – It’s more than a Harley Dealership!
I was so honored to have been asked to write this story about Dutch and Bill Holland, owners of the popular Harley-Davidson dealership in Dothan, Alabama. If you’ve never heard of this dealership and the outstanding family that runs it, sit back, and enjoy the following story!
Dutch Holland started this dealership back in 1972 when Dothan, Alabama, did not have a Harley dealership. Dutch was just getting out of the military and decided to try his luck at becoming a Harley dealer in Dothan. “I had always been a two-wheeled nut for many years. In 1968 when I was working for the National Guard in Slocomb, Alabama, two Local business owners pulled up on beautiful, new Harleys. While talking with them, they mentioned that they had to travel out of state to purchase these new bikes. So, I wanted to try to see if Harley would be interested in letting me start a dealership.
“I started Dothan Harley-Davidson in the fall of 1972”
I sent them a letter asking and they wrote back that they were not interested in having a dealership in Dothan. But in 1971, they sent me a letter asking if I was still interested in opening up a dealership. I didn’t have much money but had good credit where I could start the floor plan for the new bikes. I knew of some other business guys that were interested in opening up a Harley franchise, but Harley chose me to start the business. I started Dothan Harley-Davidson in the fall of 1972.”
With acumen for running a good business and treating the customers right, Dutch was elected by his HD peers to be on the prestigious Harley-Davidson Advisory Board. I was representing the southern district in 1994. You rotate off this board every three years, however, his peers reelected Dutch every other term so Dutch served 4 terms for a total of 12 years. 1993, Buell was bought by Harley-Davidson. As Dutch was sharing with me his extensive history with Harley-Davidson, he shared with me his involvement with Buell! “When I was on the Harley Advisory Board, they ask one person to be on the Buell Board – I was selected. As long as Buell was in business, I was on their Board the entire time.”
Dutch started off his franchise with only 4,000 sq. ft. of an 8,000 sq. ft. building, his friend had a clothing business in the other half. In 1995, Dutch bought his friend part of the building and we remodeled the store. “My son, Bill, came in to help out after he graduated from school in 1977.”
It was very lean years in the 1970s. Dutch was away at school two or three times a year with the National Guard and his wife, Sara, had a government job. Thankfully, with Bill stepping in to run the company, they were able to stay in business during some very lean years. In 1986-87 things started to turn around, by 1989 Dutch was able to be at the dealership full time as he had retired from the National Guard.
“The hardest time that we hit was in 1984. Interest rates were high, bikes were not selling, and every day was very difficult.”
Bill was stepping into some large shoes when his dad, Dutch, was away with the National Guard a school, summer camp or weekend drill. Being a young man just out of high school, he had learned the basics of running the family-owned business. Bill had some interesting things to say about this formidable time in his life. “The hardest time that we hit was in 1984. Interest rates were high, bikes were not selling, and every day was very difficult. My wife, Cindy, had to quit her job to come help me out at the shop. It was me, my wife, and one technician keeping the doors open at the dealership. Dad went back to work with the National Guard, getting more time in for his retirement PLUS providing money that was needed to keep the franchise alive.” Dutch added, “Once I got my time in and was able to draw my Civil Service and Army pensions, I was able to come back and work full time at the dealership.” Dutch did share with me that sometimes when he was locking the doors at night at the store, he wasn’t sure if that would be the last time. Those times were so very difficult for the Holland family.
I asked Dutch was what his favorite Harley; he loves the Electra Glide motorcycle. He proudly displays a 100,000-mile patch on his vest. “We rode with a lot of other riders even before the HOG chapters started. We had some amazing rides with some wonderful people. We always went to state and regional rallies together as a group. Those were some great times that Sara and I enjoyed doing together.”
Dutch and his family preserved and pushed forward, creating an amazing place for Harley lovers to come and enjoy their establishment. They had a complete re-do of the building and enlargement in 1996. Bill took on the Can-Am and Sea-Doo line, adding another 10,000 sq. ft. to the store. The Holland’s completed a major remodel in 2017. With Bill’s vision, he designed a unique building that has a beautiful, visual experience to the one that steps into the front doors of the dealership. There are two franchises under the same roof line. Everyone loves the new layout and it’s really something that you need to check out when you visit Harley-Davidson of Dothan.
The Holland family is very proud to have received 14 Bar and Shield awards over the years. The Bar and Shield award is awarded to the top 25 dealers in the United States!
“We are very thankful for Gods provisions and guidance. We love what we do, we love our customers, they are like family to us.”
This dealership has some of the best bike nights in the area! Bill said, “I don’t know exactly what the exact count was, but there were at least 500 people in attendance at our last bike night. I was coming back from an off-site event and couldn’t find a place to park! With all the cars, people, and motorcycles, it was crazy busy!” With free food and entertainment, the Holland family knows how to throw a proper bike night! Their popular bike nights are the 2nd Friday of each month (February-November).
I asked them what kept them going and doing so well at running this business. Bill explained, “We are very thankful for Gods provisions and guidance. We love what we do, we love our customers, they are like family to us. We enjoy the relationships we have with our staff and customers. I can be off-site and meet someone and they tell me, ‘I had my bike serviced there and they were great, the girls in motor-clothes are the best.’ Our staff is amazing. Jeremy, our GM, runs this place and does an outstanding job.” Also, if you love hugs as much as I do, you can get an honest to goodness hug from the original Harley Hugger, Dutch Holland!
Winding down our great conversation, I asked Dutch for one of his favorite stories to share with me. “I always have my cell phone. One day I was at a meeting at Harley headquarters and someone called me. I stepped outside and took the call. It was a biker with a flat tire on I-10. Someone had given that man my business card with his cell number on it and said, ‘If you ever need anything just call Dutch.’ I called my dealership in Dothan and sent someone out to help the biker. Then I went back to my meeting.”
Thank you Dutch and Bill for an outstanding interview! All of us at Born To Ride appreciate you and your commitment to outstanding customer service with your business, Dothan Harley-Davidson!
What: Dothan Harley-Davidson
Where: 2418 Ross Clark Circle, Dothan, AL, 36301