The city’s 35-year-old Ray Price Harley-Davidson/Triumph dealership, founded by the legendary motorcyclist of the same name, will be sold to an Arizona businessman who operates three Harley-Davidson dealerships in that state.
Arizona motorcycle dealer John Morotti will take over the 48-employee showroom on South Saunders Street in January, with no immediate changes planned. No decision has been made about keeping the Ray Price name.
Price’s store sells 700 motorcycles a year on average, costing up to $35,000 for a high-end bike, and has sold 24,812 since its founding in 1982, said Mark Hendrix, the dealership’s general manager for the past five years who will continue in his role under new ownership. The store has never lost money on an annual basis, and posted just two negative quarters – in 1993 and in 2010, Hendrix added. Financial details of the sale were not disclosed.
“Ray Price built an amazing dealership and family of riders here in Raleigh and across North Carolina. We’re thrilled to continue that heritage,” Morotti said in a statement announcing the sale. “We see the growth of Raleigh as a tremendous opportunity, and we will continue the family’s legacy of education and community service.”
Price’s name became synonymous with the Harley-Davidson brand in Raleigh. As the host of the popular Bikefest for the past 13 years, the business has brought in thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to downtown Raleigh and raised thousands of dollars for local charities.
Since Price’s death two years ago at age 78, the business has been operated by his widow Jean, 79, who now plans to retire. Jean Price owned 95 percent of the franchise and Hendrix owned 5 percent. The company received more than 50 acquisition offers in the past two years, Hendrix said, but Jean Price accepted an offer from Morotti, whom she had known for years.
Price, a Johnston County native and son of a tobacco sharecropper, met Jean working on a tobacco farm. He is in the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame and has received numerous other honors for his feats on high-speed machines. He won 46 national drag racing competitions and set 51 national speed records, and helped modernize the daredevil sport of two-wheeled drag racing.
Known as “The Father of the Funnybike,” Price was the first to use “wheelie bars” in 1974 to keep 600-horsepower machines from going airborne at breakneck speeds. In 1978 he was the first drag bike racer to use a 2-speed semi-automatic racing transmission system instead of the clunky 4- and 5-speed manual shifters that drag racers had been using. A speed record Price set in 2002 of 224 mph still stands for that class of bike, Hendrix said.
“I’ve known Ms. Jean and Ray Price for decades,” Morotti’s statement said. “We intend to serve the community with our experience and our passion for motorcycling, forming new friendships and enthusiastic new riders for the next 30 years and beyond.”