Ed Peltola and his fiancee, Deanna Ernhart, were having dinner several months ago when the conversation turned to the economy and business.
"My advertising business had gone under and, true Harley rider that she is, Deanna suggested I consider opening a bike consignment and apparel business," Peltola said.
" 'I'm a golfer. I don't know anything about motorcycles,' I said. But, she said, 'You can sell, can't you?' I thought, you know, I can sell."
After a class and some serious research, Peltola felt confident he could handle it.
In June, he bought an existing full service shop for an investment of $30,000 at 4601 49th St. N in St. Petersburg. He renamed it St. Pete Motor Bikes.
Service tech adviser Marc Shoosmith has more than 30 years experience and is well versed in BSA, Triumph and Norton motorcycles. Nate Tetzel is the shop's certified Harley-Davidson mechanic. They do everything from rebuilding to basic service and repairs.
That same month, Peltola went looking to expand northward. He found a vacant, freestanding 3,000-square-foot building at 13932 Walsingham Road in Largo. After a complete remodel, he opened the new business — Iron Horse Motorcycles — the first week in September.
It took an investment of $20,000 to open the doors, Peltola said. Add $10,000 to $15,000 to that for compressors, tire changers, motorcycle lifts and other equipment when the store converts next month to full service, he said.
In addition to bikes, the Largo store's inventory includes men's and women's leather apparel, fine jewelry, gloves, helmets, goggles and sunglasses, T-shirts and other clothing.
Business has been steady.
"I sold six bikes in 10 days to previous bike owners," said Peltola, a Seminole resident since 1980, "and I keep selling out of the women's clothing."
Most of the consignment customers are looking to upgrade to bigger bikes, he said, and many of them are women.
What services does consignment include?
The owner pays $75 to place the bike here for two months. Services include advertising with Craigslist and cycle magazines, setting up appointments for the owner, displaying the bike, negotiating the sale price and cleaning the bike if needed. I get 71/2 percent of the sale price.
The advantage of consignment is that you get walk-in traffic and you can see the bike, sit on it, touch it and it sells.
What other bike-related services does the store offer?
We offer 24-hour towing from $90, LED lighting installation from $85, bike detailing from $99, oil change for $49.95 and free patch sewing on clothing purchased in the store.
In mid November, we plan to become a full-service shop with certified mechanics to work on brakes, tune-ups, tires, oil and exhaust.
What makes and models are available at the Largo store and what is the price range?
I have a variety of Harleys, from sporters, fat boys, softtails and the dyna series. I also carry Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha and Triumph. Prices vary from $4,500 to $20,000. Inventory includes consignment and new models.