The three-story orange and stucco building on South Saunders Street that is home to the Ray Price Harley Davidson dealership is a place where people congregate. Riders enjoy coffee at the drag bar, shop for motor clothes, and hang out to plan their next ride. Chrome sparkles in the massive showroom that simulates a drag strip complete with rubber burnouts in the floor. Ray designed it to reflect his love for drag racing and a special experience for people seeking fun.
“I had no idea it would turn out like this,” says Ray Price as he recalls the lifelong hobby that grew into a business. “I wanted people to walk in and have fun, but we’ve evolved into something more. Customers tell me they love being here. They connect to talk about their own experiences, about doing this or that.”
Ray was nine years old, living on a tobacco farm in Johnston County, when his uncle showed up with a motorcycle. He remembers it like it was yesterday and it was love at first sight. He recalls trying to put a motor on his bicycle, but it wasn’t quite the same.
After he served in the Air Force, Ray and wife Jean found a common interest in riding. With a used Harley and races to attend, Ray found his passion. He had a knack for it, switching his touring bike to a street bike and then back again. Like an owner of a ‘67 Corvette, he enjoyed tinkering and making the modifications that gave his bike bigger wheels, a new neck or a new adapter. He started with stock repair in the basement of his home. Then, he opened Precision Cycle in 1973. In the early days he learned to take care of customers, keeping them satisfied and making sure to do the job right. If a redo was required, he’d do it, even if it meant he didn’t get paid for it.
In 1976, Ray Price became an official Harley Davidson dealer, and in 1982 he opened the business we know today on South Saunders Street. In the years since, the store’s footprint expanded to accommodate the detail shop, the race shop, and an aftermarket retail shop known as the Garage at Ray Price. Here, customers can find generic seats, wheels, helmets and branded apparel all designed around the Harley Davidson base of accessories.
2015 Retailer of the Year, an Engine for Charity
Ray calls the 56,000 square foot business a one-stop dream shop and when you walk in, you get the feeling there’s something more to discover. A shared camaraderie brings people together in a place where people care about you and the highs and lows of life. Kris Weiss, the director of marketing and promotions, is an ordained minister who officiates weddings in the winner’s circle and funerals in the community. These experiences bring riders and faith together in a common cadence.
The retailer also has a strong tradition of giving. Ray Price Harley Davidson raises more than $25,000 a year for charities and donates raffle prizes to over 30 organizations. As a veteran, Ray and Jean are passionate about supporting military families. The NC USO and the U.S. Veterans Corp have always been top charities, but through the years the retailer revved up efforts to support causes important to customers. Some of these include the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the Duke Children’s Miracle Network, and Marines Toys for Tots.
“We create experiences that connect our customers with charities they care about, that help improve lives,” says Ray. “Maybe we can help a kid with cancer get an Easter basket, or raffle off a bike to collect money for children’s research. Some of our charitable efforts are recommended by employees and customers whose lives have been impacted and this allows us to something worthwhile.”
I hear the rumble of a Harley exiting the parking lot and reflect on the success of Ray Price Harley Davidson. It really is a business that helps fulfill dreams. Ray Price and his team share something they love as they work with customers to create memorable riding experiences for the open road, wherever it may take them. This business is a great example that demonstrates how retail supports communities. #thisisretail