Mandan bike shop reaches national market

2008-02-21T18:00:00Z Mandan bike shop reaches national marketLELAN BOSCH For the Tribune Bismarck Tribune
February 21, 2008 6:00 pm  • 

Men and women stand shoulder to shoulder across a panoramic frame; their chests painted like wild sports fans with letters spelling out ""

This photo, featuring employees from KTM Cycle Hutt of Mandan, is on many of the motorcycle shop's billboard advertisements. Among the faces in the picture are owners Justin and Tammy Bohn, and the husband and wife team don't complain about being lost in the crowd.

"The reason we've been so successful is our employees," Tammy Bohn said. "We couldn't do what we do without the great people we have working here."

It's not that Tammy and Justin Bohn don't have stories worthy of attention. After all, Justin Bohn lived for more than a decade in Antarctica, and he married Tammy after they were reintroduced about 30 years after and 1,000 miles away from where they first met. Tammy Bohn then built her husband a Web site that helped turn a local motorcycle shop into the No. 1 KTM motorcycle parts dealer in the country. But the Bohns are more eager to tell the stories of their staff.

"(Service manager) Cory Gabbert finished 12th last year in super motocross," Justin Bohn said. "He would've finished eighth if he hadn't gotten hurt."

The Bohns take interest in their other employees too. Tammy Bohn helped Steve Braus, parts sales, set up a Web site for his own airbrushing business,

Braus said the way the Bohns treat him and the staff makes the work environment very genuine. It's like working with family, he said.

The Bohns' investment in their employees seems to have paid off. They said KTM Cycle Hutt staff have helped serve about 33,000 customers registered in the store's database - not a bad number considering Burleigh and Morton counties combined have only about 8,000 registered motorcycles, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation. The explanation is Cycle Hutt does more business online and over the phone than in-store.

"The Internet makes up about 95 percent of our sales," Tammy Bohn said. "During Christmas last year, we shipped as many as 300 packages a day to customers all over the country."

That kind of online volume has taken KTM Cycle Hutt from a 900-square-foot shop on Railroad Avenue in Bismarck to the No. 1 KTM parts dealer in the United States in less than eight years.

As part of its online marketing approach, Cycle Hutt works hard to optimize its Web site on Internet search engines. When users search for "KTM" on Yahoo, Google, or MSN, is the sponsored link customers see at the top of the page.

The Bohns also are developing sister Web sites like This site lists races and events the shop organizes, including motocross, desert harescrambles at Kimball Bottoms and 2-Wheel Tuesdays in the Cycle Hutt parking lot. They want and other upcoming sites to tap riders' unique interests and complement existing online business.

"If we get 10 to 15 sales leads from each site, it helps," Tammy Bohn said.

Justin Bohn, 45, and Tammy Bohn, 44, were both born in suburban Chicago and attended the same Pony Club as children.

Justin Bohn went to technical school to become a mechanic, and in 1988, landed a job down south - way south - in Antarctica.

"They call Antarctica ëThe Ice,'" he said. "I lived there like a hermit for about 12 years."

In Antarctica, he worked for ITT Corp., which became Raytheon Co. While he was on The Ice, Tammy Bohn worked as operations manager for Sho-Deen Inc., Chicago.

"I learned more working for Sho-Deen than I ever could have in school," she said. "The owners took care of me and my family. They weren't just in business to watch the bottom line."

At age 35, Tammy Bohn said she went through a mid-life crisis and decided she didn't want to be part of the Chicago rat race anymore. She moved to Sheridan, Wyo., where she landed a job developing Web sites for American Cowboy magazine.

"I didn't really know anything about the Web, but I knew I could learn," she said.

While living in Sheridan, a friend from her church told her about a guy she should meet. It turned out to be Justin Bohn, who had arrived back in the United States from the South Pole and was living briefly in Wyoming. They were surprised by the coincidence that they had grown up together, and had reunited so far from home.

"I think sometimes God has a way of sending you back down the path where he wants you to go," she said.

They married in 1999 and arrived in North Dakota to live near his father, who worked as a court administrator in the state.

Justin Bohn had been riding motorcycles since age 6, and told his wife he wanted to start a motorcycle shop in Bismarck. He had a lot of knowledge about the product, but she brought wisdom about the Internet, he said.

"I had used the Internet for everything from shopping to scheduling appointments for my nails," she said. "I just knew we had to have a Web site."

Early on, Cycle Hutt ran into some problems with its online property when it secured the rights to The KTM corporation sued for the Internet domain name, and temporarily suspended Cycle Hutt's dealer status.

The skirmish over nearly pushed the fledgling Cycle Hutt into bankruptcy, but the two sides were able to settle out of court and eventually restored their business relationship.

Cycle Hutt opened on Railroad Avenue in 2000, and expanded once into a property on East Main Avenue, Bismarck, before moving to the former Riverwood RV location on Memorial Highway in Mandan last year.

Justin and Tammy Bohn said they are happy to have their business in North Dakota because of the good people and work ethic in the state.

"When people call our store, they talk to a kid with a North Dakota mentality," Justin Bohn said. "Our customers know that our staff goes to the extra effort to find the part they need."

Their pride in the state has even led them to work with the North Dakota Tourism Division to promote adventure tourism this summer, with special focus on the sport of motorcycling.

Tourism is another way they hope to keep revenue coming into the state and avoid the effects of a possible recession. Tammy Bohn said although Cycle Hutt sales have been up in 2008, she knows spending on motor sports has been decreasing nationwide because it is one of the unnecessary expenses many people cut from their budgets first.

Despite the economic threats Cycle Hutt may face, Steve Drewlo, KTM North-Central Region sales manager, said expansion of the KTM product line will provide means for Cycle Hutt to grow.

"KTM just entered the (all-terrain vehicle) market this year, and the street bike line is continuing to expand," Drewlo said.

Drewlo said the Cycle Hutt business model also gives the shop an edge. They have strong Internet presence, good customer service and a large inventory of parts other dealers may not have, he said.

No matter what challenges they face or what they accomplish in the future, Justin and Tammy Bohn say they will remain humble.

"It's hard for us to define success," she said. "Justin and I are Christians, so we try to give our glory to God."

As for Justin Bohn, he said he's already met most of his goals: "I've got a beautiful wife and a motorcycle shop. What more could a guy need?"

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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