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Whole hog: New Rocky’s owners rev up excitement with big motorcycle festival

The new owners of Rocky’s Harley-Davidson in London are gearing up.

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The new owners of Rocky’s Harley-Davidson in London are gearing up.

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A few months after buying the motorcycle dealership on Wilton Grove Road, the new owners will play host to a gathering this week of Harley enthusiasts expected to bring more than 1,000 riders to the city.

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Rocky’s is running its Forest City Bike Fest and Rally from Thursday to Saturday. It will offer riders daily guided rides across the region, and live musical performances, food trucks and other events when they return.

“We want our dealership to be the focus, a safe place to gather and meet new people, meet other riders,” said Brian Jacobs, who bought Rocky’s in March and has an ambitious vision for the business. “It will be exciting to show what London and the region has to offer. There will be rides north and south of the city that are wonderful.”

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Forest City Bike Fest is Jacobs’s way of marking the new direction he envisions for Rocky’s after buying it from Brian Duncan and his sons Jeff and Mike Duncan. Jacobs was controller at Rocky’s under the Duncan ownership group.

“I have been involved since 2001 and when I joined the Duncan family and I saw it through a lot, through successes and times when it was struggling. It’s been a big part of my life for a lot of years,” Jacobs said.

He and a partnership group in St. Thomas also own Blackridge Harley-Davidson in Cambridge, but the businesses will remain independent. He bought Blackridge in 2019 and has served as the controller for both businesses.

“We will be investing in the dealership as well as the community,” Erin Mitchell, general manager at both Harley dealerships, said of Rocky’s.

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That investment includes the bike rally that will cost $750,000, she said. “We didn’t have to do it, but we want to be visible,” Mitchell said.

Rocky’s also will undergo a major $2-million renovation scheduled for 2024 that will see the entire store redone, she said. “It will be one of the brightest and shiniest dealerships in Canada. We’re looking to bring tourists here over the next several years. We expect this will grow.”

It already is growing with sales up this year. Business is so brisk, the dealership has about 185 bikes in its inventory up from the usual 130.

“We have built on things in a short period of time. The dealership needed a breath of fresh air,” Mitchell said.

She points to investments in enhanced workplace training and a focus on events including a “female ride rally” in May that showcased diversifying the Harley ridership base.

Rocky’s sent 800 invitations for the bike fest and rally and more than 500 people have registered. “I’m amazed we are able to pull this off in such a short period of time,” Mitchell said.

Rocky’s opened in London in 1955.

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