Mike Witt, a Harley-Davidson mechanic for more than 30 years, said motorcycle performance shops have lost a dimension over the years.
“Motorcycles are personal,” Witt said. “It’s not just about the bike. It’s about the people who ride them.”
He hopes to revitalize such a personalized spirit with his business partner, Richard Flynn, by fully remodeling the former Marengo Foundry Corp. building, 123 W. Railroad St., into a full motorcycle dealership.
The building already is the site of W.A.R. Performance, a motorcycle repair shop, and The Bunker Storage, a premium motorcycle storage space, both of which are co-owned by Witt and Flynn.
Flynn said about $250,000 already has been put into the building, and he is expecting to spend at least $500,000 more before the dealership is finished.
More than $100,000 was invested into a series of 14-foot-by-14-foot murals displayed outside the building, he added.
If all goes well, Flynn said, he hopes Marengo becomes a riding destination. If that occurs, he hopes to dispel some of the negative stigmas within the motorcycle community and get people to realize how much riders give back through charity for causes such as autism awareness and combating abuse of children.
“Hopefully, we can rejuvenate Marengo and bring a couple thousand people here per weekend,” Flynn said. “It’s just a great community, and I don’t know how to describe the kindness.”
The dealership will not be the only addition to the space. Witt said he also is planning to add an Allstate insurance office in the building, and he’ll be going through training over the winter to prepare for it.
In total, Witt said, he is planning to start with 30 employees, with room for growth.
W.A.R. stands for Witt Advance Racing, but Witt said he also wants his businesses to appeal to active veterans. One idea he has is a giveaway of 10 bikes along with storage space and detail packages.
Witt hopes to go before the City Council for a special use permit in January, but he said the response from city officials and the public has been positive so far.
Pending council approval, Witt said, he hopes to open doors to the dealership by June. He also is hoping to partner with area school districts to provide programs for welding and other trade skills in high demand.
Despite such an investment, Witt said, it will be important to keep things “old school.”
“There’s not a lot of places where you can come in, have a cup of coffee, talk with the tech working on the bike and just shoot the breeze,” Witt said. “That’s what we want to bring back.”