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University Honda/Yamaha

It's a Wicken Family Affair

In the days of corporate takeovers, corporate run franchises and corporate ups and downs, one thing has remained constant around the Northwest's motorcycle industry - family run stores.

1959 saw the first United States Honda motorcycle dealership open in Seattle, Washington Honda. Documentation shows the original dealer number was 01. Originally located on Capitol Hill the location moved up to Roosevelt in 1965 when the dealer changed its name to University Honda. Soon, they added Kawasaki and Bultaco to their lines and in 1967 they added Pete Wicken to their sales staff. In 1981 Wicken, along with his wife Karen purchased the dealership from its previous owner and together with their kids, Tom and Sarah, and a loyal staff built University into the dealership it is today.

The location at Ravenna and Roosevelt was hardly suitable for carrying lines of motorcycles. It was two stories and the Wickens were having trouble managing where to put all the inventory. "We used to have to use a crane to get bikes into the upstairs," remembers Pete's son Tom who now handles the sales floor for the dealership. By 1995 the Wickens had a chance to carry the Yamaha line and began a search for more floor space, eventually returning the dealership to Capitol Hill one block west of its old location.  

Tom Wicken with his lightweight classic Yamaha racerSelling bikes Tuesday through Saturday, Tom Wicken also officially started racing the WMRRA circuit this year and has been successful at holding high marks in the lightweight classic super bike class. Service tech Jack also races the circuit and specializes in race setups and preps, a specialty that University offers its customers.

The classic Mini Trail 50 that hangs from the ceiling at University Honda Daughter Sarah, along with her husband Mike who works in the parts department have an exceptional collection of older bikes, many of which are Hondas. A visit to the store will often yield a chance to see a few of the gems. "We're out of room to store them all," notes Mike who often has to deliberate with keeping a bike or keeping house furnishings. Somehow the bikes usually prevail.

In the 80s University was the #1 dealer of scooters in the US. Although that market has waned, they are still one of the stronger dealers of Helix's, Elite's and Riva's in the northwest. This year their strongest sales were on sport bikes, particularly Honda F4's, CBX 1100s, Yamaha R1's and R6's.

"University Honda is the only place I've worked in my entire history of being in this business," says Pete who started selling bikes shortly after his exit from the armed forces. While many businesses use computers today for accounting, Wicken likes to stick with a large tablet style paper general ledger. "This is how people get paid," he points out holding up the tablet. But don't think they're in the dark ages. This year they remodeled their parts counter and they do use the Light Speed computerized system for many of their inventory and tracking needs.

If you need a break from corporate America, take an afternoon or Saturday morning to stop into University Honda/Yamaha and experience what a family run business is all about!  

TM/Sep99 address> 

University Honda/Yamaha
420 E Pike
Seattle, WA 98122

Editors note: UHM closed it's doors January 15th 2009. We're keeping the story here as a historical document. We'll miss you guys!


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