The oldest American motorcycle in the world is not the classic Harley Davidson — but instead, the Indian motorcycles you may see around town now that American Heritage
Motorcycles Burning River is open in Sheffield Village at the former Spitzer building.
Indians were introduced in 1901 (two years before Harley), and the company helped support World War I and II efforts, explains dealership general manager David Hunt, who relocated his family from Dallas, Texas, to Avon in January 2015 to open AHM Burning River. “They put all of their efforts into the wars during that time, and coming out of the second World War, Harley had gained control of the market and Indian never recovered.”
Indian was bought and sold a couple of times — and made a loud, strong come-back in 2011 when Polaris purchased the brand and invested almost a half-billion dollars into the brand, Hunt says. “They completely reinvigorated the market, and Indian is the only brand that can compete with Harley as far as loyalty and brand awareness.”
In fact, Indian is more than shaving some market share from the American motorcycle giant, with third-quarter sales dropping by 16 percent when earnings reports were released in October 2015, Hunt says.
Meanwhile, AHM Burning River was named a Dealer News Top 100 dealer in the country in its 2015 Excellence in Powersports Retailing awards. “You see people with Indian motorcycles riding around,” Hunt says of the interest. “The quality is so much better than what you are used to seeing, the prices are comparable to competitors, and Indians come with all of the amenities.”
American Heritage has four other dealership locations, including two in Chicago, one in Cincinnati and another in Willoughby Hills. “We are the only dealership in the area that sells the Polaris off-road brands,” Hunt says, relating that Polaris is “the” brand in off-road ATVs.
AHM Burning River also sells Victory and used Harley Davidson motorcycles, and the dealership provides motorcycle repair.
Hunt says its customers are people who buy American and want quality. “Up until 2014, there was no other option for a big v-twin engine motorcycle that was American-made except for Harley — if you wanted big American, you bought Harley.”
That’s not the case anymore Hunt says he’s taking in a lot of used Harley Davidsons as trade-ins for Indian motorcycles.
Before coming to Avon, Hunt ran a large Honda and Kawasaki dealership in Dallas. He says his family “loves summers here” in Avon, where they live. It’s a switch from Texas heat, but the community has been welcoming and Hunt is excited about what AHM Burning River is offering the area.
“It’s cool to see how excited people are that Indian is back — and they’re here to stay,” he says.
The opening of a new Cabela’s outdoor outfitter in Avon in fall 2016 will follow Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC) tournament scheduled for June 3 to 4 in Lorain. The event is expected to provide an economic boost of $750,000 to the local economy, according to Cabela’s figures. The Avon retail location will be the only one in northern Ohio, and fourth in the state.
“We use data from online and catalog sales to pinpoint areas where we have a high volume of customers, and Ohio has been great to Cabela’s,” says Cabela’s communications specialist Nathan Borowski.
The 81,000-square-foot store will be located near Chester Road, with Jacobs Real Estate Services LLC serving as developer. It is expected to hire about 225 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees from the Lorain County area.
“We know we have a lot of loyal Cabela’s customers in the area, and we want to bring the northern part of Ohio a retail store they can call their own,” Borowski says. Cabela’s offers an immersive outdoor experience for guests, he explains. The store will include log construction, stonework, a mountain replica, aquarium, dozens of wildlife displays, taxidermy mounts, hand-painted murals with outdoor/wildlife scenes.
Cabela’s in Avon also will feature a café, fudge shop, boat shop, gun library, Bargain Cave and Cabela’s wildlife products. “We have a knowledgeable staff that is passionate about the outdoors,” Borowski says.
Anglers looking to fish Lorain’s waters that are “waist high in walleye” (the slogan of Lake Erie Fishing’s Facebook page) will be watching Black River Landing in June when the MWC tournament boats return for weigh-in. MCW events average 25 to 100 boats, and fishing teams might arrive a week early to practice.
Cabela’s reported that, depending on the event’s success, the MWC would consider returning to Lorain, and the city could be in the running to host Cabela’s National Team Championship.
Even to those who live outside Lorain — and far away from the Lake Erie — this area is known for its walleye. Last fall, the Ohio Department of National Resources forecasted a walleye hatch that’s the largest in recent history. This will bode well for local fishermen and traveling anglers who like to test new waters.
Tight Line Anglers Products
Lorain is a real catch for fisherman, and those in the angling business like Chuck Vanover, president and founder of Tight Line Anglers Products, which started 19 years ago as a lure-making operation in Vanover’s garage. Today, the company makes a high-quality specialty fishing lure that’s sold to War Eagle Lures, among others, and then packaged and available in stores such as Wal-Mart, Cabela’s, Bass Pro, K-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Gander Mountain.
“We’re the people behind the scenes,” describes Vanover, who bought his first professional Bass boat in 1995 and started going on fishing excursions all around the country with his wife. While at Kentucky Lake, he stopped at a local tackle store to find some fishing “goodies.” He was shown a small selection of Bass jig heads. He bought the popular sellers, but came home after a day of fishing without any real prize.
But when Vanover returned home to Lorain, he used the new lures and had success. The problem was, he couldn’t find the lures anywhere — so he decided to make his own. “I’m pretty handy, and so I made a real nice lure and began giving them out to friends. One day a buddy said, ‘You ought to sell these,’” he relates. “That’s how it all started.”
Vanover, who worked in Lorain’s steel mill, continued full-time with that job, knowing his ultimate dream was to run his own business. He had gotten a taste of that in the early 1980s, when he was in his 20s and his parents helped him purchase a small marina in Haysi, Virginia. He ran the marina for three years then sold it.
“I had a mission — to work as much as I could, and to build a business so I would not have to rely on the steel mill and I could be my own boss,” Vanover says.
Vanover applied his mechanical and automotive painting background to his lure endeavor and continued working from his garage for three years. His “big break” was in 1999 when a pro staffer helped get Vanover’s lure into a big-box retailer. “It gave me some clout,” he says.
The business moved out of the garage by 2000, and in 2005 Vanover sold his original Bass jig to one of his sales reps in Alabama. “This was so I could restructure the company for the purpose of manufacturing for other companies,” he explains, circling back to Tight Line Anglers Products’ role “behind the scenes.”
“For the next several years, my focus was to gain companies that had a need for someone to make their fishing lures,” Vanover says. Today, Vanover’s operation makes lures for other companies to sell at the largest big-box retailers and small mom-and-pop tackle shops.
In 2009, Tight Line Anglers Products moved into its 6,500-square-foot facility on Globe Avenue in Lorain. Vanover employs four people who help manufacture the lures, and he has plans to add two more staff members this coming year.
Tight Line Anglers Products produces millions of lures each year — and Vanover admits he has very little time to actually go fishing these days. But what he loves about the business is providing a product to anglers that works, and that they can be proud to use.
“The details make a difference,” Vanover says of the lures’ quality. “We call our lures ‘the best,’ and when we talk to customers who call us and say, ‘These are awesome!’ then we know we have done our job.”
Wherever you see orange cones on the highway and concrete must be cut for construction, there’s probably a Diamond Products blade involved. The stadiums in Cleveland, including the homes of the Indians and Cleveland Browns, required a Diamond bit to drill holes in railings, and in sidewalk construction. In Lorain County driving west on Route 2, Diamond Products diamond blades help cut away concrete and asphalt.
Diamond Products of Elyria is the largest manufacturer of diamond tools in the United States.
Of course, these are not the diamonds of the “I do” variety. “Our diamonds are manmade in facilities with three-story presses that create diamonds in months that it takes nature millions of years to do,” explains Jim Palmer, marketing manager who began working at Diamond Products 20 years ago in the manufacturing facility. (Most of the diamonds are actually produced by GE.)
Like many on staff, Palmer is a longtime employee. The company employs about 250 people in the Elyria facility, for a total of about 350 including its locations in Nampa, Idaho, and Kentwood, Michigan. Diamond Products has about 50 sales people and agencies representing its products in the United States and Canada. The company has a worldwide presence, since partnering with Tyrolit of Austria in 1991. Tyrolit makes abrasives for grinding and cutting, and is owned by Swarovski Crystal.
Diamond Products has expanded significantly over the years, Palmer says. The business started as Pennsylvania Drilling Co. in the mid-1960s, manufacturing diamond bits for mining applications. In 1964, Dan Moller bought the company and renamed it Diamond Products. “We still have the original building,” Palmer points out, noting that there were only 15 employees then.
In 1981, Dan’s son Carl Moller took over the business and continues as its president today.
Palmer says the company continues to find dedicated employees in a generous talent pool fed by Lorain County Community College (LCCC) and the Lorain County JVS. “There is a lot of machining that goes on in the factory, and both LCCC and the JVS have helped us acquire some good, skilled employees,” he says.
Recently, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan visited Diamond Products, after one of the company’s head engineers wrote to him asking for help managing impending EPA restrictions on engines used to power Diamond Products’ equipment.
Diamond Products is Elyria proud and a longtime Lorain County supporter, Palmer adds. “We try to use companies within Lorain County or nearby Ohio counties for vendors,” he says, naming Bodnar Printing in Lorain for printing and packaging as one example.
Meanwhile, Diamond Products is a worldwide company through Tyrolit, and has enjoyed exposure in many interesting venues. “I remember selling a core bit to the Discovery Channel,” Palmer says. “They were in Antarctica doing core samples with ice and used our bits.”