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Auburn Harley-Davidson silences its engines

33-year-old Placer County business calls it quits
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Sideswiped by a recession that just won’t quit, Auburn Harley-Davidson went out of business Tuesday after 33 years. Owner Bob Holmes said 15 employees in sales and service were let go. With the recession deepening over the past two years, the Locksley Lane service and sales dealership has trimmed its work force from a high of 42. “Obviously, the economy has hurt us and other businesses,” Holmes said. “It’s been the lack of credit that’s been available for our customers and for us, the ever-increasing taxes and fees have hurt.” Holmes said that he made a point of closing down with his pride and reputation for dealing squarely with customers intact. That has meant service manager Lou Biron calling all customers with bikes in the shop to let them know the work will be completed even if the dealership has now closed. It has also meant calling all customers who have appointments in the future to advise them to not come in. The sudden end of the line for the dealership caught customers who came up to the closed North Auburn store by surprise. Jack Dumm of Colfax said he was in shock. “This is one of my institutions,” he said. “You stop by here and shoot the breeze, ask about the latest rides and get any bike questions answered.” Dumm said he understands the economic uncertainties now facing many of the employees let go by the dealership. He’s unemployed himself. “I was part of a family business that folded,” he said. “I lost my job, health insurance. Now it’s ‘Do what you can.’” Holmes bought the dealership in 1998 from Carlos and Emma Lujan and put his own stamp on Auburn Harley-Davidson. He’s served on the board of the local Red Cross and the Community Cancer Endowment Fund. Local organization Horses for Healing recently took delivery on horse trailer the dealership had donated. “Over the last 11 years, my dealership and Auburn Gold Country HOG (Harley Owners Group) raised and distributed almost $1 million in the community,” Holmes said. Auburn Harley-Davidson’s shutdown follows the recent closings of Auburn Nissan, Maita Ford Mercury, Auburn Buick Pontiac GMC and Auburn’s Volkswagen sales lot along Highway 49’s “auto row.” Auburn Ford Mercury Lincoln has since taken over the Maita lot. A handful of used-car dealerships have also gone under. At one time, Auburn Harley-Davidson had the best customer-service satisfaction ratings for dealerships in the nation and the low rumble of “hogs,” as they’re known as, was the sound of success in and around the 13,000-square-foot Locksley Lane building’s sales lot. Some of the more expensive bikes sell for upwards of $30,000. But the current economic downturn, which has been particularly painful in Placer County because of the burst housing bubble, drove the motorcycle market down. The decision to close came Tuesday and was probably overdue, Holmes said. All employees were paid in full for salaries, vacation time and taxes, he said. “I’ve had the business for sale for some time and the last best potential deal fell through,” Holmes said. “Frankly, the reason we’re closing is because we’re out of money.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.