After a 2014 brand resurgence, Indian Motorcycle finds a new home in Monmouth County
by Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos By Robert Nuzzie
When the Indian Motorcycle Company was founded in 1901, its chain-drive bikes quickly became recognized for their innovative design and streamlined styling. They featured twist-grip linkages, single-cylinder engines, and an open-cradle featherweight frame, and each was splashed in a coat of deep-red paint that would soon become the product’s trademark look.
If the Massachusetts-based motorcycle maker was less famous than its competitor, Harley-Davidson, it still thrived— and was producing more than 30,000 bikes annually by 1913. Over the years, though, a series of ruinous events plagued the company, and in the 1950s, it filed for bankruptcy. “The company officially went out of business in 1953,” explained Ron Mitro, president of Indian Motorcycle of Monmouth, which opened in Neptune this past November. “Their military contract had expired, and people started to drive more cars—it was simply just a bad cocktail of events for what had once been a very prestigious brand.”
Over the years and decades since, a few companies tried to resuscitate Indian, but the attempts inevitably failed due to a lack of capital or a shortage of experience. That all changed in 2011, when Polaris Industries bought the brand. The U.S. manufacturer of snowmobiles, ATVs, and neighborhood electric vehicles ignited a spark.
“Polaris is one of the largest recreational vehicle manufacturers in the world, and after purchasing Indian in 2011, they debuted a new line of motorcycles in 2014,” Mitro said. “They kept up with Indian’s vintage look…built them to be reminiscent of bikes built in the 1940s and ’50s. Each bike was equipped with beautiful finishes and real leather seats—the very heart and soul of old-fashioned quality and craftsmanship—but they also updated the bikes with the latest technology.”
2017 Indians range from the under-$10,000 Scout Sixty to the $17,500, black-on-black Chief Dark Horse (profiled in our January issue) to the Chieftain Elite supercruiser (starts at $31,500), a limited-edition bike that—with its handlebar mounted fairing and hard bags—squares off against Harley’s Street Glide. It features custom Fireglow Red Candy with Marble Accents paint, completed by hand at the maker’s custom paint facility in Spearfish, South Dakota (where a team spends more than 25 hours painting each bike).
For Mitro, who has been a motorcycle enthusiast since the age of nine, it was a thrilling brand resuscitation. “I was working for another cycle dealership, watching Indian being reborn and slowly taking our market share with them,” he said. “I also realized that there were no dealers in this area; you had to go pretty far north to find an Indian. So, I did some research, realized how focused the company was, and started taking steps to open this showroom.”
Together with his partner, Jason Gamba, Mitro revamped a 12,000-square-foot lot on a stretch of Route 33 in Neptune, and went to some lengths in streamlining the buying process for their customers.
“We adapted an Apple computer store type of approach, in which everyone in the showroom can help every customer with anything they need,” Mitro said. “If you have a service issue, you don’t have to walk over to the service department to figure out the details; we can help you anywhere inside the store. If you want to buy a T-shirt, I can ring it up for you. I wanted to eliminate a lot of the headaches that often come with buying or servicing your bike.”
The partners also added a customer lounge with antique pool and pinball tables, as well as a patio where they can smoke a cigar or grab a cup of coffee. “We wanted to create a space that was warm and welcoming,” Mitro said. “The showroom is unlike any other dealership… a place where you can stop by and relax with friends—regardless of whether or not your motorcycle is in for service.”
For Mitro, who has owned many kinds of bikes, from Ducatis to BMWs to Harleys, it’s a concept that he hopes will unite local riders.
“Both Jason and I are active members in the motorcycle community and look forward to holding events and rides, and exposing this market to the Indian Motorcycle brand,” he said. “But we can also work on almost any brand. We’re here for all motorcyclists in New Jersey—not just those who ride Indians.”
Indian Motorcycle of Monmouth County
1318 Rt. 33, Neptune / 732.455.5700