Man, I needed some conversation. Being away from “home”, and my family two time zones away there is practically nothing really to break the monotony when I’m not working. Any activity that didn’t involve watching TV, eating, drinking or dealing with real estate agents was more than welcome. Dudes with Moto Guzzis, wrenches, compressors and associated “man-bling” and the accompanying manspeak is definitely needed.
I decided that as soon I got a break in the action and needed a Guzzi fix, I’d make the trek out to Woodstock, and see what his operation was all about. After surfing his website, I got the true Guzzisti vibe– a real show room with a wide selection of new bikes, a full service department and a real clean operation. Now, I just knew I was going to like him.
It was a big week last week. Sheila and my daughter, Kira, were in town to look at houses over the previous weekend, and Kira needed to take some tests for Chicago’s advanced placement program. I had to fly to Vegas to spend a few days orienting myself with the Slot Machine industry to which I am now attached, and I spent a great deal of time and energy with the wonderfully smart folks at WMS’ R&D department learning about them. Oh, and I was fighting off a cold.
I got back into town on Friday evening, and I had reached critical mass. It was time. Before I went to bed, I mapped out the trip, checked Rose Farm’s hours out, and carefully laid everything out so I could get going on Saturday. It took forever to get to sleep, visions of motorcycles and good conversation dancing through my head. Jim has 25 years’ experience around Moto Guzzis, a great dealership and a bunch of hardware. I was pumped.
The Trip out was uneventful. Rose Farm is located about 60 miles from Rogers Park, where my corporate housing is located. You just take I-90 West until you get to the Woodstock Exit – Hwy 47 North. You then ride along for a a few miles, take 14 West, and turn right on Rose Farm Road. Rose Farm Classics is located in a small industrial park that is built upon what was once the Bauske Brothers’ Rose Farm, one of the largest in the world, until it closed in 1981 after more than 50 years in business. There’s not a lot of signs until you get there; it’s typical midwestern modesty — I would have liked to see a sign with an arrow at the 14/Rose Farm road intersection, but I’m not a local and I still found it. (google map)
I pulled up and found three guys pushing a VW R32 in 7° weather. I quickly jumped out of my Volvo Wagon and ran over, saying “looks like you could use another butt in front of that bumper”. We pushed the VW into the service are of the shop, where, closing the door, we introduced ourselves.
It turns out that Jim had been talking to a potential customer about buying a V7 Classic and his car had pooped out. Jim decided to put the car in his shop and out of the weather to give the battery a charge and see if it could be resurrected. I introduced myself and received a hearty welcome and a nice steaming cup of espresso. We talked about the V7C and its possibilities for quite awhile. The customer was originally from Isle of Man, and his American wife had acquiesced to his motorcycle purchase, expressing an interest in riding herself. I told him that the V7C is a fabulous “return to motorcycling” bike, and given that he lived in downtown Chicago where 90% of his riding would occur, it would be a great bike that would get around the city beautifully, and if his wife began to ride full time, it would provide her with a ton of easy riding fun.
We walked around Jim’s showroom. It was loaded with Brevas. They all had the “Sport” fairing, and I expressed my love for the 1200 Sport, which in my opinion was pulled from the lineup way too quickly, although you can still get the ’08 models. Jim likes the 1200 too. It’s his personal ride, with a killer Termignoni exhaust that takes the “small block v8” sound of the Guzzi and transforms it into a NASCAR-sounding beast. Nice. Jim has quite a selection of bikes including a white Griso, one of the most beautiful bikes that Guzzi makes. He’s also expecting delivery of a white California Vintage soon. His shop is clean, well organized and completely Guzzi. Jim not only drinks the Kool-Aide, I think he’s brewing up the shop’s loft.
Jim also has some great Guzzi clothing that he’s made. IZOD fleece jackets with nice, understated Guzzi badges and the Rose Farm Logo on it, they are fit for Americans, where the really nice Guzzi-supplied XL is more of an exact fit for my daughter (Ducati does the same thing — jeez!). His service area is clean and has some nice old bikes stored there as well, along with a great supply of parts and staffed by what Jim calls “a really smart young guy that really knows his way around the bike”.
As we talked about the current Guzzi line-up, Jim talked about the people that comes into his shop and how these bikes match up to the potential client. “Most guys have to go through a lot of bikes before they finally find Moto Guzzi, and then that’s the last brand they ever buy,” Jim said. “You have to ride and skin up a few Hyabusas, R1s, Harleys or whatever, and at some point, when owning a motorcycle becomes the story that you created between you and your bike, that’s when you find Moto Guzzis”.
I also asked him what is was like being in the “back yard” of “The Motor Cycle Company”. Jim has a lot of people that come in and look real hard at the California Vintage, then go off and pay more for Heritage Softails or the like, even though there is really no comparison. People will overpay for an inferior bike purely due to peer pressure. I’ve seen it myself when riding the Vintage around. Funny thing is, whenever I parked the one I was riding at Neptune’s Nest or the Rock Store, the old-school Harley guys just fawned over it with abandon. Jim also said that the “California Vintage is actually the highest-top-end Guzzi made, if you let it wind out long enough” — much faster than any stock Hog. Yet, there’s still the peer pressure that makes someone buy the Heritage and pay the extra seven large to get it somewhat equivalent to the Cal Vin. Oh well. Rant almost over. Buy the ride, not the logo. Now the rant is over.
As we talked and closing time loomed, a friend of Jim’s came in. He owns a couple of V7 Sports, and keeps his Falcone in Jim’s front lobby. Three Guzzi people talking about bikes. This was great, as now I came away with information about where the local breakfasts, rides, meets, runs and great places are. With Good riding about 60 days out, I am now frothing at the mouth.
Jim’s a professional. He takes Service, Sales and relationships with his customers extremely seriously. He knows that once you deal with him, you’re going to be a compadre as well as a customer, and you’ll get that treatment. He takes buying locally very seriously and practices what he preaches. His kids and family spend their money in the area, take care of the locals and care about their customers on a very deep level. Buying a motorcycle is a much deeper experience than buying a car. As riders, we all know the relationship and bond that you develop over time with your bike, and Jim takes this relationship to the next level: when you purchase a bike from him, you’re part of the family and you’ll be treated as such.
You can buy your Guzzi off the web cheaper, but it’s like buying a lawn mower from Wal Mart. If it needs service or something is wrong, do you think Wal Mart cares? Does Wal Mart’s money stay local? Does Wal Mart spend the time to set the machine up for you because they have to answer for it?
Nah. You got “a good deal”. Now deal with it. When you bring your lawn mower to the local dealer for repair, do you think that he’ll put you in front of his long-time customers because you have an emergency? You’ll get great service, but he doesn’t know if you’re coming back or not. It’s going to take that much longer to build a relationship.
When Jim sets your bike up, you’re getting the guy that GuzziUSA uses to set up their bikes for the press. They ask him what he thinks of the new line up. Buying from Jim instead of the internet will not cost more because you get the relationship with the shop that will transcend this. Jim’s site tells the potential customer all they need to know:
“Mr. Barron is a long time, acknowledged expert on Moto Guzzi and BMW motorbikes. With a 25+ year history in the motorbike industry, and having achieved master technician status with major manufacturers, you are assured that equipment presented for our services are given world class attention.
This attention to details begins with your purchase of a Rosefarm prepared motorbike and continues throughout your riding experience, wherever that may lead.
As Chicagoland’s exclusive authorized Moto Guzzi dealer, we invite you and your friends to stop by the ‘Farm to see the latest offerings from the Shores of Lake Como…”
I enthusiastically recommend building a relationship with Jim, and I look forward to doing this myself.