Topeka Harley-Davidson is expanding into North Lawrence, an area that is becoming increasingly comfortable for motorcycle enthusiasts and businesses.
The Lawrence dealership, to be known as Riverfront Harley-Davidson, will occupy the former Free State Furniture Gallery at the northeast corner of North Second and Lincoln streets.
The project will pump more than $2 million into land, upgrades and inventory to turn a 1950s-era building into a full-fledged Harley shop with motorcycle sales, parts, service and accessories, all connected with the iconic American brand.
Owner Mike Patterson said he'd been looking at expanding into Lawrence for some time, and just couldn't wait any longer. He plans to have his grand opening in October, with 15 sales, service and management employees working to satisfy customers from the Lawrence area and beyond.
"We've looked at the Lawrence market for 15 years," said Mike Patterson, owner of the Topeka dealership founded by his grandfather 57 years ago. "Now the time is right."
The expansion comes as other motorcycle-oriented businesses have been popping up along North Lawrence's main traffic artery:
¢ Combs Custom Cycle, which relocated a year ago to NorthTown, a business-condo project at 725 N. Second, after seven years north of the Kansas Turnpike. Owner Rick Combs builds cycles, services Harley-Davidsons and even handles most of Patterson's custom-painting orders. He also sells clothing and accessories.
¢ Slow Ride Roadhouse Bar & Grill, a biker-friendly restaurant and bar, opened last year at 1350 N. Third St., north of the turnpike.
Those businesses already add to a longtime base of cycle operations and enthusiasts. Johnny's Tavern long has attracted biker crowds, and John's ATV and Motorcycle Repair, just up the street, services Honda, Yamaha, Triumph and other foreign motorcycles.
Ted Boyle works in a shop behind his house nearby on Elm Street, tinkering with 1930s, 1940s and 1950s-era Indian and Harley-Davidson cycles, and he's counting on Riverfront Harley-Davidson being a welcome sight for cycle owners, residents and businesses alike.
"The way Harley-Davidson does their business and their buildings, they really do a tremendous, fancy job," said Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Assn. for the past 11 years. "There's a lot of neon and a lot of lights; it'll just brighten things up. We think, as a neighborhood, we would have liked to have a grocery store in there, but this is the next best thing.
"We believe this will brighten up North Second Street and convince other businesses to come up and locate here. This is a major business coming here. It stands out. It's definitely a plus for North Lawrence."
Patterson closes on the purchases of his properties a week from today:
¢ 608 N. Second St., which includes the former Free State Furniture Gallery, its lot and a 50-space parking lot along the south side of Lincoln Street.
¢ 612 N. Second, previously occupied by Cottman Transmission Center; the purchase also includes an adjacent car wash.
"We're going to fill the place up," Patterson said, of 608 N. Second St. "I hope that we need to expand in the future. That's our goal, to expand sometime down the road."