The city’s 35-year-old Ray Price Harley-Davidson/Triumph dealership, founded by the legendary motorcyclist of the same name, will be sold to an Arizona businessman who operates three Harley-Davidson dealerships in that state.
Arizona motorcycle dealer John Morotti will take over the 48-employee showroom on South Saunders Street in January, with no immediate changes planned. No decision has been made about keeping the Ray Price name.
Price’s store sells 700 motorcycles a year on average, costing up to $35,000 for a high-end bike, said Mark Hendrix, the dealership’s general manager for the past five years who will continue in his role under new ownership. The store has never lost money on an annual basis, and posted just two negative quarters – in 1993 and in 2010, Hendrix added. Financial details of the sale were not disclosed.
“Ray Price built an amazing dealership and family of riders here in Raleigh and across North Carolina. We’re thrilled to continue that heritage,” Morotti said in a statement announcing the sale. “We see the growth of Raleigh as a tremendous opportunity, and we will continue the family’s legacy of education and community service.”
Price’s name became synonymous with the Harley-Davidson brand in Raleigh. As the host of the popular Bikefest for the past 13 years, the business has brought in thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to downtown Raleigh and raised thousands of dollars for local charities.
Since Price’s death two years ago at age 78, the business has been operated by his widow Jean, 79, who now plans to retire. Jean Price owned 95 percent of the franchise and Hendrix owned 5 percent.
Price, a Johnston County native and son of a tobacco sharecropper, is in the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame and has received numerous other honors for his motorcycling feats high-speed machines. He won 46 national drag racing competitions and set 51 national speed records, helped modernize the daredevil sport of two-wheeled drag racing.
Known as “The Father of the Funnybike,” Price was the first to use “wheelie bars” to prevent 600-horsepower machines from going airborne at breakneck speeds. He also developed the 2-speed semi-automatic racing transmission system to replace the clunky 4- and 5-speed manual shifters that drag racers had been using. A speed record he set of 237 mph still stands for that class of bike, Hendrix said.
“I’ve known Ms. Jean and Ray Price for decades,” Morotti’s statement said. “We intend to serve the community with our experience and our passion for motorcycling, forming new friendships and enthusiastic new riders for the next 30 years and beyond.”
For more than 30 years, Ray Price Harley-Davidson has served as the center of motorcycle culture in Raleigh, N.C., and among the Southeast’s top motorcycle dealerships. Home to Hall-of-Fame racing legend Ray Price, dealership staff have centuries of combined Harley riding experience to provide award-winning customer service and education programs for beginners-to-expert riders. Ray Price was again named a 2014 Dealernews Top 100 business, as well as a Powersports Business Power 50 Dealer. The team actively supports area charities through a wide range of philanthropy projects. Ray Price Racing won the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) Top Fuel Harley Championship in 2014 and 2015.