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Manhattan's Mototainment makes big business out of small shop

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 - 07:00
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In the whole width and breadth of the United States, we rarely entertain the notion that a dealership, let alone a repair shop, can exist in the middle of Manhattan. And yet here’s Mototainment, a firm in the island’s SoHo district specializing in Italy’s Ducati and Britain’s Triumph motorcycles.

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And you think you’ve got problems?

“It’s very difficult,” Service Manager Kerry Sano confirms. “We’re very high volume as far as sales and repairs, but we are constrained by space and parking and all of the things that you can imagine being in a major metropolitan city--the service department is in the basement and we can only get bikes down through a union-run elevator.”

At a Glance:
New York, New York
Steve Radt
No. of shops
Years in business
Total square footage of shops

“It’s funny because it’s literally only 800 square feet,” remarks General Manager and owner Steve Radt. “But 800 square feet in Manhattan is gold, so we took that space and created something very unique, very SoHo, very New York: a dedicated apparel boutique which only has high end products like gloves, suits, and full carbon fiber helmets worth $4000 apiece.”

Like the Harley-Davidson business model, they’re not just selling bikes, they’re selling a lifestyle. The only independently owned franchise motorcycle dealership on Manhattan, Mototainment is also the only Ducati and Triumph dealer in New York’s five boroughs. “In calendar year 2015 we were the number one Ducati dealer in North America,” he observes. “That is what is novel about us; we’re an independent dealer and we’re able to put out that kind of volume.”

Meanwhile Radt brings his own sensibility to bear on the business; coming up through Ducati corporate as a mechanical engineer in product development, an opening at Mototainment caught his eye. “I was ready to do something else,” he explains. “I had never worked retail before, and I always wanted to work in Manhattan, so I actually took the opportunity to run the store.”

He had his work cut out for him. Upon taking over, the store was facing bankruptcy, but Radt was able to keep it open for another two years before the owner decided to sell, except with a lease set to expire in 2014 accompanied by escalating rents, no one was willing to buy.

“I ended up offering to buy the dealership myself,” reports Radt. However he and the owner couldn’t come to an agreement either, “so I walked out and the dealership closed.” But he had good relationships with the OEMs and the landlord, and kept his offer on the table should things get sorted out. Five months later they did.

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