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Riding along for 75 years

July 30, 2006

It all started in a kitchen.

In 1932, H. William Twigg had not yet reached his 20th birthday when he started the business that today is known as Twigg Cycles.

"He started by rebuilding bicycles in his mother's kitchen," said Mike Twigg, grandson of H. William Twigg and current owner of the business that sells motorcycles, ATVs, scooters, dirt bikes and watercraft.

Twigg Cycles, off Edgewood Drive near Funkstown, also sells parts and accessories, clothing and helmets, and has a full service department.

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The company is celebrating its 75th year in business.

Although it started in H. William Twigg's mother's house, for more than five decades - from 1942 to 1998 - Twigg Cycles operated from a building on Cannon Avenue.

In 1998 the business moved to its present site, a 20,000-square-foot, 2-acre facility.

After H. William Twigg added motorcycles to his repertoire (the bicycle business continued on as well, into the 1970s), he obtained the Indian motorcycle franchise in the late 1930s.

"I would say he probably has had 20 different brands of motorcycles and scooters and you name it" over the years, Mike Twigg said. In 1989 the business bought out a Kawasaki franchise and in 1996 a Honda dealership.

Merging them all occurred when the current building opened.

Twigg Cycles now sells Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Polaris vehicles.

"I'm sure he would have liked to have gotten the Harley-Davidson franchise, but whenever he had interest in it, it was already spoken for," Twigg said of his grandfather, whom he called "Pap."

"Pap" had a passion for a life lived on two wheels.

"That was the love of his life," Twigg said, noting that his grandfather rode for pleasure and also loved racing motorcycles.

H. William Twigg kept riding, up until the weeks before his death in May 1993. He sold the business to Mike Twigg in 1989, but his interest in it didn't wane.

"He still came into the dealership every day," Twigg said.

Twigg said he learned a lot from his grandfather about how to run a business.

"He was kind of a hard-nosed businessman, but everyone always knew where they stood with him," Twigg said.

Adjusting to changes



In the last 10 years the motorcycle industry has changed. And grown.

"We've really had to mature," Twigg said.

His business sells about 1,500 vehicles a year, with an annual revenue of around $12 million. It has about 25 year-round employees and adds a few more for the busier summer season. It expanded its store hours into the evenings, has a Web site from which items can be purchased and has a fully automated parts department.

The type of customer has evolved as well.

"Once upon a time (in) our industry only about 2 percent of the population was even interested in our products," Twigg said. "Now it's probably closer to 4 or 5 percent of the population."

The number of motorcycles sold in the country nationwide has again reached the 1 million mark, as it did years ago, with the number of ATVs sold in the nation at around 750,000.

The number of women interested has grown, as has the number of people whose interest in motorcycles has been kindled by high gasoline prices.

Twigg said higher gas prices have caused him to sell more scooters and smaller motorcycles, which can average 60 to 80 miles per gallon in gas usage.

Yamaha makes a scooter that averages about 100 miles per gallon; Twigg has sold out of them.

"Our products have finally been accepted on a larger scale," Twigg said, saying it took a long time to battle the image of motorcyclists as black leather clad, "Easy Rider" types.

Twigg is not that type.

He first hopped on a motorcycle when he was 6 years old but said his main interest was motocross.

Twigg started racing in motocross and supercross events when he was 15 years old and turned pro in 1978.

For four of the next five years he was ranked nationally, but ceased racing in 1983 when he injured his knee and decided to work full time at what was then still his grandfather's business.

Since then he's tried to run a customer-oriented business, creating the V.I.C. - Very Important Customer - program, in which those who buy a vehicle from Twigg receive future discounts and priority when scheduling service appointments.

"I certainly could not have done it without the customers' support," he said.

Twigg said he also prides himself on the community involvement of the business. Twigg Cycles has hosted a charity golf tournament for the past 12 years, with the money used for a scholarship, named after H. William Twigg, at Hagers-town Community College.

The business also contributes to other nonprofit organizations in the community.

At some point in the future Twigg said he hopes to find acreage to set up "Smart Cycle Ranch," where children would be able to spend a few days learning how to ride motorcycles in a responsible manner.

Both of Twigg's children, students at Elon University, ride motorcycles and have street bike licenses. His son Brock, who will be a senior this fall, and his daughter Stefanie, who will be a sophomore, are both interested in Twigg Cycles, he said.

"They've said they don't want to watch the name of the store change under their watch," Twigg said.

Both have worked at the store, which is a family affair.

Twigg's wife, Robin Twigg, is vice president of the company and handles its finances and marketing.

It's a situation that Twigg calls fascinating, given that decades ago his grandmother, who is still alive at 92 years of age, helped her husband with the business as well.

Recently, Twigg took his grandmother to dinner and, as always, drove past the shop.

"Every time we drive by the store, she says, 'Man, your grandfather would be proud,'" Twigg said.

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