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Fletcher's Harley-Davidson heading down the road on U.S. 19

With the second generation of the family in charge, Fletcher's Harley-Davidson is getting ready for an expansion that promises not only a larger showroom, but a bigger, more rounded biking experience.

Think of a place where you could buy a motorcycle — plus the accessories, gear and clothing that goes with it.

But not only that: How about a place with room where you could learn to drive the chopper?

Or mingle with up to 1,000 other bikers?

Someday, it might even be a motorcycle dealership with its own restaurant.

That's what the Fletcher family has in mind.

The Fletchers recently got a development approval from the city of Largo to move their showroom from its current location at 17129 U.S. 19 N to a site a couple of blocks south at the southeast corner of U.S. 19 and Whitney Road.

The current 30,000-square-foot store will remain open during construction. Around October 2009, it will move to a new 46,000-square-foot building nearby, plus a rider training area.

"There won't be another place where you can get (motorcycle riding) lessons on site," said Laura Fletcher-Taylor, 42, the family's youngest daughter and store's general manager.

• • •

Fletcher's was established by Bob Fletcher and wife Lucille in St. Petersburg in 1954. It has been at 17129 U.S. 19 since 1980.

The shop is now in the hands of Fletcher-Taylor and her two sisters: Peggy McFarland, 65, and Sherry Conder, 53. McFarland's daughter, Denise McFarland, 45, also works there along with a staff of about 40.

The store now sells 450 to 500 motorcycles a year and had about $13-million in revenues in 2006, Fletcher-Taylor said.

With three previous expansions on its current site, she said, there is no more room to add.

The idea for another location originated two years ago when the family saw that more construction was coming to U.S. 19 in the next few years.

Gravel, rocks and heavy equipment would be a hazard for riders, and the state's plan for the road would put Fletcher's on a frontage road running parallel to 19's main lanes.

"I sat down and had a family meeting," Fletcher-Taylor said. "I said, 'I have to do something.' "

• • •

So the family bought 8 acres down the street at 16485 U.S. 19 for about $5-million.

The project recently received a development order from the city, which allows them to apply for a building permit.

The new building — stucco, with a metal roof — is expected to cost $4-million, Fletcher-Taylor said.

It will have an outdoor seating area. The riding lessons are already being taught on an open area at the site of the planned new store.

The family originally envisioned putting a restaurant on the new site. Given the slow economy, though, they are holding off on that part of the plan.

Still, the grounds will have ample space for picnic tables and gatherings of up to 1,000 bikers.

"The room around it, from my point of view, is going to be great," said Dick Pritchard, 73, Fletcher's director of promotions. "When we have special events, we'll have a place to do it."

Jose Cardenas can be reached at jcardenas@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4224.

Fletcher's Harley-Davidson

New site: 8 acres

Site cost: $5-million

Size of planned store: 46,000 square feet

Expected cost of construction: $4-million

Tentative opening date: around October 2009

Fletcher's Harley-Davidson heading down the road on U.S. 19 03/18/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 3:35pm]
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