Having a motorcycle-related business showcased at one of downtown Indianapolis’ premier visitor’s destinations is a testimony not only to the good relationship the dealership has had with the city over the years, but also the wider acceptance of motorcycling by the general public.
“I get great pleasure sharing each day with family and watching them grow and carry on a family tradition,” says Bob Schulteti, George Schulteti’s son and second-generation owner of Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson. “We feel honored to be recognized by the Indiana Historical Society and given the opportunity to display some of our family history.”
The story of Southside Harley-Davidson starts in 1922 when a 16-year-old George Schulteti stopped by Harley-Davidson’s Milwaukee factory in search for a replacement part for his Harley-Davidson bicycle. There was a spirited discussion when he was told he would have to go to a dealership to buy the part. William A. Davidson, one Harley-Davidson’s founders, happened to hear the conversation and told the teenager if he ever wanted a job at the factory he had one. Two days later Schulteti was sweeping floors at the factory.
Schulteti gradually worked his way up the ranks at the Motor Company and worked in various positions, but always hoped someday to own a dealership.
After World War II Schulteti’s job was to inventory the Harley military motorcycles in service. In the process, he rode over 50,000 miles in a year traveling across the country. During his travels, he met Illinois dealer Max Colville. The pair pooled their resources to buy John Morgan’s Harley dealership that had been operating in Indianapolis since 1919. For better than six decades Southside Harley-Davidson on South Meridian Street, just seven blocks from the center of downtown, served as the heart of the Indianapolis motorcycling community.
Not only were rides coordinated out of the building nearly weekly in the summer months, it also became a hangout for local racers. The Schulteti’s all raced as well as backing dozens of Indianapolis-area racers over the years in just about every discipline of motorcycle racing.
The building that housed the dealership that became a second home to hundreds of motorcyclists, had an interesting history of its own. Built in 1906, the building housed several businesses – a dry cleaners, shoe shop, barber shop and restaurant. The upper floors served as flats, where railroad men stayed overnight. In 1919, it became the home to the John Morgan-owned Harley dealership. In 1947 George Schulteti took over the shop.
By the time the dealership moved in 1998 to its current location, in the southern suburbs of Indianapolis, the number of employees had risen to 32.
The exhibition, The Harley Shop: Seventy Years of Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson, runs July 22 through Sept. 9, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis.
If you happened to be in the area the exhibit will give you an opportunity to get a glimpse into the 70-year history of an iconic motorcycle dealership.