Cassandra Colson Reporter
The late Al Muth’s passion for motorcycles was so strong that he couldn’t understand why others didn’t feel the same.
âHe just could never understand why everyone in the world didn’t have a motorcycle,â said Muth’s wife Jeri. “He just enjoyed this endless bike.”
Muth’s love for motorcycles – and especially the iconic Harley-Davidson models – is what paved the way for a successful Jackson County business that is known across the country. Al Muth Harley-Davidson marks its half century this year after operating in the city of Adams for just over 50 years.
âThe people of Black River have always accepted motorcycles,â said Mark Muth, one of Al’s sons who currently runs the business with his wife, son and 15 employees. âWe love it here.
âIt was a lot of work, but it was also very rewarding. We have a lot of clients who are good friends – really.
Al got his first motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson, at age 17 after his father sold a cow to pay for the motorcycle, which at the time cost around $ 65. Al eventually went to work as a cycle mechanic, performed at fairs, and traveled across the country on his bicycle before returning to his parents’ farm in Adams town in 1958 with Jeri to milk the cows.
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This is what the couple did exclusively until 1960, when they started a chainsaw dealership on the property and began exploring launching a local Harley-Davidson franchise in 1964.
But it wasn’t as easy as approaching the motorcycle company and getting the green light.
Harley-Davidson officials did not want a franchise in the Black River Falls area due to anticipated sales potential: Geographic analysis indicated the Muths could only sell one or two motorcycles from their farm property rural on Snow Creek Road.
âThey said no to daddy. He said, ‘That’s good, but I’m going to sell motorcycles, so if it’s not Harley, it will be something else,’ âsaid Mark.
Al Muth Harley-Davidson has proven the projection to be wrong. The company sold 10 motorcycles in the first year and 38 years later, in 2003, the franchise sold 199 new motorcycles – the most new cycles in operating history.
The company, which moved to its current location on Highway A in 2000, continues to thrive as it sells new and used motorcycles, Harley-Davidson merchandise, and has a very active after-sales service.
Customers come from near and far to visit the Muths’ business, Mark said.
“That’s the good thing is we’ve been here long enough that the word covers the whole country with t-shirts and different things that we’ve done for people,” he said. . “We’ve been here long enough that people know where we are in the motorcycle business – all over the country, that’s my feeling.”
Dave Holcomb, the company’s service manager, said he was drawn to working at Al Muth Harley-Davidson because of his own passion for motorcycles. He then graduated in agriculture after high school, but jumped at the opportunity to work as a mechanic in the Muth service department when he saw the opening.
He said he was fortunate to work with Al, former mechanic Neil Knudson, and play a role in the motorcycle business which continues to evolve as technology advances.
Motorcycles make people feel like part of a family, he said.
âMy heart was in bikes and snowmobiles and there was an opening,â said Holcomb. âIt seems (riding a motorcycle) is like joining a family.
âIt’s so easy to go to a cycle rally and find good people.
The business has always been a family business, with Al operating it until his death 27 years ago. Jeri worked as an accountant over the years and Mark eventually took over the business. One of Mark’s earliest memories is riding in the sidecar of his parents’ motorcycle, and he would also love rides and races.
â(Getting into the sidecar) was fun – it was exciting,â he said. âI grew up with (motorcycles). Thatâs why Iâm doing it. I’ve grown up with this my whole life. “
Jeri said she had fond memories of the trips she and Al had taken with the motorcycle club they helped found, and she remembers one in particular they took in Nashville that was particularly hot.
âI’m telling you, I think that year we had the very first new air-conditioned car. It was so hot there and when we got to the motel, I said to Al, we were almost toast, and I said, “You know, we have our first new air conditioned car and where is it?” He’s sitting in the garage at home, âshe laughed.
âWe had a lot of fun on the bike.
Al Muth Harley-Davidson is planning a 50th anniversary celebration July 8-11 at its N6630 Highway A location with live music, a show with well-known stuntman Bubba Blackwell, a vintage bike tent and other shows from ‘horse riding. For more information visit www.almuth-harleydavidson.com or call (715) 284-4725.