MUSEUM STORE AT "ORIGINAL" DAYTONA HARLEY-DAVIDSON
Now Open! Visit our new Museum Store at Bruce Rossmeyer's Original Daytona Harley-Davidson on Beach Street in beautiful downtown Daytona Beach. We offer unique fashion and a variety of new authentic Harley-Davidson items perfect for anyone on your shopping list.
Bringing Art to the Art of Motorcycles
By M. Stemp - Originally Published in Iron Works April 2013
Biketoberfest marked its 20th year in 2012 and that’s a serious achievement for a rally these days. What’s also worth mentioning is the often made comment regarding what bikers like about Biketoberfest: “It’s quieter and easy to get around than in the spring; it’s as much fun with none of the hassles.”
We agree. At IronWorks we’ve always touted the benefits of the fall version of biking as a group in Daytona Beach. In fact, according to Janet Kersey who worked many years with the Daytona Convention & Visitors Bureau —a woman affectionately referred to as the birthmother of Biketoberfest—it’s precisely this kind of support that got Biketoberfest to its 20th year. “I always felt bad about squeezing the ad guys for a better rate every year,” she said. “But that helped grow Biketoberfest. You don’t get there without partners like that.”
We talked with Janet at her current place of employment under the Rossmeyer Daytona Harley-Davidson banner inside their Beach Street store. Before this store opened in 1994, Bike Week and Biketoberfest were centered on Main Street. But the Daytona HD dealership, the vendor lots it sprouted and other anchor stores such as Carl’s Speed Shop and Arlen Ness further along the street eventually drew major rally action to Beach Street’s river-edged park-like setting.
Last year, the decision was made to move bike sales to Rossmeyer’s expansive Destination Daytona H-D store in Ormond Beach, and space finally became available to develop the original store into the family’s museum that had been in the works. It opened to visitors in the spring, though none of the bikes had been moved there yet and the floor plan continues to develop.
“We’re happy with our start,” said Janet. “We know we’ve got a ways to go but we’re taking our time and want to do it right. We want to be sure it pays homage to motorcycling and the Daytona area.”
The first major display that was completed, and one that draws people like a magnet, is Bruce Rossmeyer’s office. Bruce, who passed away in 2009 following a riding accident, was a larger than life figure who had enormous impact in the industry. The opportunity to peak into his inner sanctum is too enticing to dismiss for most of us. I admit it; I looked in.
Bikes presently on the museum floor include many from Bruce’s personal collection including 1914 and 1916 model Harley-Davidsons, a striking 1964 FLH and Bruce’s Wyatt Fuller-built custom (from Wyatt’s Razorback Engineering days) that Bruce rode often.
“It’s perfectly lit and displayed, and so impressive to see when you first walk in,” said Janet of the bike. “People just want to touch it! And though we understand that, we really don’t encourage it.”
Jeff Decker’s “Elvis” sculpture, commissioned by Bruce, is here along with Bruce’s collection at paintings from David Uhl, Scott Jacobs, Tom Fritz and others. Some of the murals on the walls, painted by local artist Perego, were put in place in 1999, including a particularly memorable mural of the staff from that time period, the millennium staff. “When Destination Daytona first opened the majority of the building staff was transferred up there,” said Janet. “Now, employees come back to this store and you can see it in their faces and read it in their body language—what it means to them. There’s pride about being pictured on the wall.”
While Janet has enjoyed these aspects of the museum’s development, she confides it’s a serious enterprise that requires painstaking attention to detail. “It’s completely different from running a retail outlet. Your facts have to be right on the money because Harley-Davidson owners know their facts, there’s no fooling around.” There’s also the sense of responsibility. “You’re searching for history; it’s amazing” she said. “History involves a lot of storytelling. You try to go back and find the facts but you find a lot of fables, too.”
Case in point: A substantial mural was planned for a major focal point to record and honor all of the Harley-Davidson dealerships in Daytona’s history. Explained Janet, “We worked with the people at the H-D archives and museum and asked if they could do some research for us; who were the dealers, what were their dates? As we went through that process we learned about Walter Snow, who was first, then found three other dealers who came between Snow and Joe Robison. Until further details could be gathered the mural had to be put on hold.”
But that just puts another item on Janet’s to-do list, one she’ll eventually scratch off as the museum evolves. With room to expand and plenty more history to record for motorcycling posterity, we applaud the effort.
And speaking of museums and Harley-Davidsons, a trip to Daytona any time of year is incomplete without a stop at Robison’s, the H-D dealership in Daytona for more than 30 years. For old timers, a quick visit to greet Angie and shake hands with Joe is essential. Don’t leave town without it. IW