Jim Longshore raced motocross in the ‘60s and ‘70s before beginning to sell Triumphs and Kawasakis as a sales rep for those brands.
In March of 1975, he purchased an existing Honda motorcycle dealership in Florence and became his own boss.
With his enthusiasm for the business, it grew quickly and two years later, he moved Longshore Cycle Center to a bigger footprint at 913 Mitchell Blvd. Over the years, Jim added Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Sea-Doo brands to the mix.
When his two sons Brian and Tom were 14, they started chipping in at the family business.
“Every day I was out of school or even if I just had a half day my senior year, I was down here working, because it was the most fun thing to do,” said Brian. The brothers both worked their way through college, earning business management degrees from the University of North Alabama.
By 2008, the brothers were in charge.
Brian handles sales and Tom watches over parts and services, but “we just do whatever needs to be done,” said Tom, adding that is the reality of running a small business.
When asked what advice their dad gave them, Brian said, “He told me you are on straight commission,” and Tom chimed in, “You’re in control of your own destiny, so you can make however much you can.”
The sales staff at Longshore Cycle continues to be compensated on a commission basis and all the business’ 21 employees’ pay is “tied one way or another with performance,” said Tom.
More Than Motorcycles
Both inside and outside the center, there are motorcycles as far as the eye can see, so the inventory makes the earning potential good. Longshore Cycle also sells scooters, dirt bikes, ATVs, side-by-sides and personal watercraft.
The business draws customers from the entire Shoals area as well as nearby Tennessee and Mississippi. “Some people are looking for a specific bike,” while others just recognize the diversity of products the business offers, said Tom. “Five brands under one roof and a ton of preowned. We have a really wide variety, and it is always changing.”
The business recently added a 12,000-square-foot warehouse to accommodate its growing side-by-side inventory. Also known as utility vehicles, side-by-sides are off-road vehicles that seat two people next to each other, much like a car or truck. Some even seat four.
“You can put your whole family in one machine, so you don’t have four machines spread out with your kids and your wife,” said Brian.
Tom said the added space for side-by-sides may allow the dealership to expand even more.
While its inventory draws buyers in, the brothers said their reputation closes the sale.
“This area is so relationship-based,” said Tom. “Taking care of people is the best strategy to expand.”
While customers find the business via its website, Facebook page and advertisements, many customers say they shop with Longshore Cycle, because “you’ve got a good reputation. You take care of people,” said Tom.
Bike clubs and other riding groups also end up being ambassadors for the business.
Those riding enthusiasts help the Longshores raise money for the brothers’ favorite charities too.
Each May, the business sponsors Cruisin’ for St. Jude with 100 percent of the proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
A cousin with a brain tumor was successfully treated there, so the hospital means a lot to the brothers. “St. Jude does such great work and tries to save every kid they can,” said Brian.
In August of every year, Longshore Cycle Center sponsors the North Alabama Christian Children’s Home Benefit Motorcycle Ride, which in 2019 raised $9,762 for the residential group home for abused, abandoned or neglected children.
Different clubs will turn out for the two events “and get their friends to ride with them and have fun raising money,” said Brian.
It is yet to be determined if a third generation of Longshores will be running the family business. Both brothers have children, but the oldest hasn’t yet reached the magic age of 14. “You never know,” said Tom.
For now, “we just strive to be a better business than we were yesterday,” said Brian.
Story and photos by Nancy King Dennis
Originally posted at 9:47 a.m. Feb. 24, 2020.