Snowmobile dealer wouldn’t mind seeing more of the white stuff
For fans of winter fun, this has been a trying season. After a promising start in November, snowflakes have been few and far between in Ozaukee County.
The lack of the white stuff in any significant volume is a recipe for trouble for a business that specializes in snowmobile sales this time of year, such as Port Yamaha, 540 W. Grand Ave., Port Washington.
“On Saturday, when everyone was running around town jumping for joy at how beautiful the 45-degree weather was, I was in a grumpy mood,” said Mike Eidenberger of Port Yamaha.
His family’s business usually does a brisk business in snowmobiles before giving way to motorcycles, scooters and wave runners as cold gives way to warmer days.
The shop has been exclusively a Yamaha dealership since 1967.
“Service and parts sales have been pretty strong, but I would guess our snowmobile sales are off, maybe close to 25%,” Eidenberger said.
He said those flat sales numbers are likely to add up to great news for customers looking to buy end-of-model-year sleds before the new lines of snow machines are introduced in late February and March.
“It is a tough business because we have to place our orders based on what we think the demand will be the following year,” Eidenberger said.
When the area has a snowy winter, like last year, the anticipation is that demand will be high the following snow season by snowmobilers anticipating a repeat of the conditions.
Although it has been a great year for snow in northern Wisconsin and in the “snow belt” of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, there has been minimal snow in this part of the state this winter.
“Our sales improve when there is a lot of snow up north and people are excited about getting out on the trails, but it also has a lot to do with how much snow we have in southeastern Wisconsin,” Eidenberger said.
Technology has made the Port dealership less dependent on local weather conditions.
Eidenberger noted that online sales and an 800 phone number has brought business from around the country.
While being interviewed Monday, he was interrupted to answer a phone call from someone on the East Coast with a question about a Yamaha generator — as a blizzard was closing in on the region.
Still, enthusiasm for snowmobiling at the local level is fanned by the availability of trails — when there is sufficient snow on the ground.
“The Sno Seekers snowmobile club members log a lot of hours putting in the trails at the beginning of the season and again taking the trails out at the end, when the farmers need to get back on their fields,” Eidenberger said.
Eidenberger counts himself among those who savor days on a well groomed trail, but added that his enjoyment of the sport is hampered by more than the lack of snow.
“When your family business is selling and servicing snowmobiles, you don’t get much time to go out yourself,” he said.
Port Yamaha is the quintessential family business, with Eidenberger’s brother John and sisters Amy Lou and Margaret Eidenberger-Hopkins all pitching in.
Eidenberger said the shop has been a part of his life long before he was old enough to drive.
“I remember going to TJ (Thomas Jefferson Middle School) and then coming to the shop to work on motorcycles,” he said.
Like automobiles and other modes of transportation, snowmobiles have grown in sophistication and price since those early days.
“There was a time when a guy would spend an hour riding his snowmobile and then have to spend an hour working on it,” Eidenberger said.
“That’s not the case anymore. The machines today, with their four-stroke engines and fuel-injection systems, can run for virtually a whole season without needing to be serviced.”
Eidenberger said snowmobiling fans come in all descriptions, from guys who love to tinker around on their machines to those who just want to go out on the trail with their families.
“The sport appeals to all kinds now,” he said.
What all snowmobilers have in common is a love of being outdoors — especially when it snows.
Image information: MIKE EIDENBERGER AND his sister Amy Lou showed off a snowmobile on display at Port Yamaha. The array of winter clothing available at the store underlines the appeal of the sport to riders of all descriptions. Photo by Mark Jaeger