Jamestown Harley-Davidson, the Mother Lode’s only dealer of the iconic American-made motorcycles since it opened in 1995, is closing, and its last day open will be Jan. 5.
“Too many years of summer wildfires coupled with an overall shift to online shopping has resulted in fewer people calling on us for their Harley needs,” Art and Linda Mitchell of Mitchell’s Modesto Harley-Davidson, and Allen Aldridge, the Jamestown Harley-Davidson general manager, said in a statement.
Jamestown Harley-Davidson, like so many other Tuolumne and Calaveras county businesses, relies heavily on tourism to turn profits. Aldridge referred to a Union Democrat story in August that cited the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau’s estimate that the Ferguson and Donnell fires caused $28 million in tourism-related business losses this past summer.
“We feel it big time, too,” Aldridge said Wednesday. “We count on summertime to make money. When it’s smoke and hot and dry and the fires are going, and the national parks are closed, people don’t come up here.”
The closure of Jamestown Harley-Davidson will directly impact the business’ current workforce of six employees, which is down from a peak of 14 employees, Aldridge said. They were all, including Aldridge, offered jobs at Mitchell’s Modesto Harley-Davidson and, as of now, just one of the current Jamestown Harley employees plans to move.
Others have found work, they’re going to new jobs or retraining, Aldridge said. It’s going to be a struggle for some, offer new opportunities for some, and it will be a lateral move for at least one. Aldridge said he’s going to go into substitute teaching for Tuolumne County, wherever they’ll need and have him.
Mechanics at work at the business on Wednesday included 13-year employee Dave Anthony and three-month employee Troy Brown.
The closure at Jamestown Harley-Davidson will also affect hundreds of customers. Aldridge estimates the business has sold at least 2,000 motorcycles, worked on 10,000 to 12,000 of them, built 2,000 motors and repaired another 2,000 wrecked motorcycles over the past two-and-a-half decades.
“I’m going to miss ’em,” Ralph Jarvis, 78, said Wednesday as he knelt in the business parking lot next to his 2009 Sportster 1200 changing a couple relays, one for the starter and one for the electrical system. “Made a lot of friends here. They’ve helped me quite a bit. These are good people. I hate to see them go.”
Walls in a hallway inside Jamestown Harley-Davidson are adorned with plaques and photos and memorabilia from over the years, including a 1998 list of more than 175 charter members of the Jamestown California H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) Chapter 8102.
There’s a winner’s plaque for the Chapter Challenge Lip-Sync Contest at the October 2005 California State H.O.G. Rally in Modesto, “the Best Damn Rally in the Valley.” There’s a photo from the August 2007 Seven Passes Ride benefitting the Ride for the Heart Foundation. There are flags and patches from Sweden, donated by a Swedish member of the Sweden Harley-Davidson Club who rode with locals on the West Coast Sierra Sun Run in September 2012.
“In the last decade we’ve averaged a hundred members a year,” Aldridge said. “Over the years, we’ve had probably 300 members come and go.”
Not all who buy at Jamestown Harley-Davidson are H.O.G. members. Jarvis, who visits the dealership nearly every day, is one of business’ most loyal regular customers, and he rides with a local veterans group, Aldridge said.
Jamestown Harley-Davidson and local motorcycle clubs have helped raise millions of dollars over the years for charities, said Samantha Rosa, marketing manager for Mitchell’s Modesto Harley-Davidson and the Jamestown location.
From 1995 to 2009, the Sierra Hope Ride fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association
Raised about $2.5 million cumulatively, Aldridge and Rosa said.
From 1996 to 2017, the Jamestown Harley-Davidson Chili Cook-Off raised about $2,000 a year for various local charities, with funds donated directly to them or for purchasing supplies and raffle items.
As sponsor of the Jamestown Harley Owners Group from 1996 to 2018, the dealership served as a hub for other fundraisers and sponsorships for charities including local Boy Scout troops, local high school graduates, community members in need, highway cleanups, and host for the annual Run to the Pines at the Dardanelle Resort. The Jamestown H.O.G. group will continue to operate under sponsorship of Mitchell’s Modesto Harley-Davidson.
Jamestown Harley-Davidson has also been the starting point and sponsor for the annual Sonora Toy Run hosted and organized by the local American Motorcyclist Association chapter. This year’s Sonora Toy Run was in October.
Jamestown Harley-Davidson’s last day will be Jan. 5, and the people who work there plan to host their last event that day, the Annual Polar Bear Run that started in 1996. This will be the final Polar Bear Run, Aldridge said. With good weather, they average 300 riders, raising about $3,000 a year for local charities.
Aldridge emphasized Wednesday the closure of Jamestown Harley-Davidson has nothing to do with attacks by President Donald Trump earlier this year on the Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Trump criticized the motorcycle manufacturer for its plans announced in June to move its production of motorcycles that cater to the European market outside the U.S., in response to European tariffs pledged by the European Union to counter U.S. tariffs Trump pushed for. Trump backed boycotting Harley-Davidson.
Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich in June called Trump’s tweets against Harley-Davidson “unfortunate attention.” He said his company has made strides to not be a political organization and continually works at being apolitical.
Aldridge said Trump’s criticisms of Harley-Davidson had “absolutely nothing” to do with Jamestown Harley-Davidson’s closing, and called them “totally unrelated.”
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.