Who: Justin Prann
Company: Pandora's European Motorsports
Inventory: More than $1.5 million
Brands sold: BMW, Ducatti, Triumph
• BMW and Ducatti -- 4784 Highway 58
• Triumph -- 4301 Highway 58
Future plans: Consolidate brands and expand facilities at the new Highway 58 location
Keys to success: International Internet sales and social clubs for regional customers
Source: Pandora's European Motorsports
Popular European motorcycles:
• Tiger Explorer XC -- $17,199
• Daytona 675R -- $13,499
- Bonneville Steve McQueen -- $9,999
• R 122 GS Adventure -- $18,350
• HP4 -- $20,525
• G 650 GS -- $7,850
• Hyperstrada -- $13,295
• 1199 Panigale R -- $29,995
• Monster 696 -- $9,295
Source: Pandora's European Motorsports
There's something very different about high-end motorcycle buyers.
Such speed enthusiasts appreciate a machine that can launch to an illegal velocity from a dead stop in the time it takes to say "bad to the bone." They don't care much about the lack of decent crash protection.
And they're not shy about spending money during a recession.
Defying the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, high-end bike buyers in the Chattanooga region spent millions of dollars at Pandora's European Motorsports on Highway 58. In 2010 alone, owner Justin Prann sold more than 225 bikes, then doubled those numbers in 2011 and launched a website that allows enthusiasts to buy parts and bikes online.
He says he has sold more BMW motorcycles in the southeastern United States than any other dealer for two years running, and he's among the top five Ducati dealers.
Now, it's time for the next big thing.
Prann has acquired an exclusive regional franchise to the Triumph brand, which he will add to his existing stable of BMW and Ducati speed machines. He'll offer the Triumph motorcycles at a new Chattanooga location on Highway 58 that he owns outright, unlike his existing Highway 58 store, where he leases space.
Though he has yet to cut the ribbon, buyers already are flocking to the popular British motorcycles, he said.
"We've got 11 of them in there already, and we sold two over the weekend without even having a sign up or the building painted," Prann said. "All we had were concrete floors, no displays, no T-shirts, just the motorcycles, and 50 people rolled in and out."
Perhaps the interest arises because Triumph bikes were favorites of Marlon Brando, James Dean, Steve McQueen and Bob Dylan. Maybe it's because Triumph offers more models -- about two dozen -- than its competitors. Either way, these bikes are an undeniable draw, Prann said.
"It's definitely a business of passion," he said. "This business is not for the faint of heart."
That's why Prann this year has spent more than $500,000 to buy, stock and refurbish the former Copper Kettle on Highway 58, where he plans to eventually consolidate both of his stores in the next year and a half.
The new property brings a lot of advantages for Prann, a motorcycle enthusiast who has sought to build a European bike community in Chattanooga on the road to consolidating what he calls the "trifecta" franchises -- BMW, Ducati and Triumph -- of European sport bikes.
Prann wants to invite a food truck over on the weekends for big bike meets, which the larger parking lot will make possible. The larger lot will allow him to build additions to the building or build separate buildings for each brand, he said. Combined, the track meets and other social events he already offers to customers and strangers alike, Prann says he expects to draw enthusiasts to Chattanooga from around the U.S.
"A good bike shop is like a good doctor, people will find us," he said. "We have guys who will ride 600 miles all the way here from Florida just to get their bike serviced here."
The new property will fit hundreds of bikes, even after Prann builds a pavilion on the front side and a venture park in the rear. But though he's burning cash to expand the business, he expects a quick payoff on the parts side of the busines. The addition of Triumph parts to his slick online store should boost overall sales by 30 percent, he said. He's especially excited about the prospect of higher Internet sales, which helped offset a few cold months in 2011 that saw lower-than-average foot traffic.
"We're already shipping 400 parcels a month worldwide," Prann said. "I know we can do this."
Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at email@example.com or 423-757-6315.
Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...