Archives: Harley Dealership Featured at One of Indy’s Premier Destinations

Larry Lawrence | August 9, 2017
Southside Harley featured at Indiana Historical Society 1The Indiana Historical Society is a gem in the city of Indianapolis. Since 1830, the organization has been Indiana’s Storyteller, connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state’s history. Over the year IHS has told countless stories about the people, places things of the Hoosier State. HIS’s newest exhibition celebrates 70 years of Schulteti family ownership of Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson. Featuring photographs, artifacts, collectibles and vintage motorcycles, the exhibit showcases this iconic American treasure through the lens of a Hoosier family who has been in the business for almost a century.

Featuring a motorcycle dealer at the History Center is stepping out of IHS’s usual scope of concentration, but according to Rachel Hill Ponko, IHS Director of Public Relations, telling the story of one of central Indiana’s oldest dealerships was made possible by the fact that the family-owned dealership has done an excellent job over the years documenting and photographing its history, which dates back to 1947.

“This exhibit is a bit unusual for us,” Hill Ponko said. “Normally our featured exhibits use items from IHS’s own collections, but in this case Southside Harley-Davidson supplied most of the items on display. We felt it was a wonderful opportunity to tell the story of a longtime Indiana family business.”
Walking the hallways of the exhibit, IHS took many of Southside H-D’s historic photos and blew them up into larger than life-size wall displays.  One room featured a range of motorcycles associated with the dealership over the years, including a recently restored Harley-Davidson KR750 road racer raced by Hoosier racers Lowell Rettinger and Larry Roberts.

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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.

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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.'

Larry Lawrence | Archives Editor In addition to writing our Archives section on a weekly basis, Lawrence is another who is capable of covering any event we throw his way.