Pottstown >> Pottstown will soon be saying goodbye to a downtown fixture: Kiss Cycles will be closing its doors Dec. 23 after 103 years in business.
Specializing in new and used motorcycles, motor scooters and ATVs — Kiss Cycles has operated out of the same location at 18 E. High St. since its 1913 opening. The business has been an authorized Honda dealer for the last 54 years.
Randy Kiss, the third generation owner of the business recently made the announcement that he plans to retire and close the store. He cites business challenges and a desire to have the opportunity to ride his own motorcycle, as reasons for making the decision.
“We don’t know how long God’s going to give us,” Kiss said. “I’m going to be 64 and I want to ride a motorcycle, and I never get to do it. I push them around in here all the time, but never seem to have the time to get out there myself.”
Kiss said he and his companion Paula Richard — who works with him in the shop — have begun to make some plans that include the beach and fishing.
Kiss said the last 10 years or so have been a challenge, but he wanted to keep the business going.
“I had a personal goal to make the 100 year mark for the family and I did that,” he said. “I saw the industry level out. I said ‘I don’t want to quit now, what if it gets better?’” He added that the turnaround doesn’t seem to be happening.
Kiss has been hearing from a lot of people since making the announcement and said he appreciates all the kind words.
“I want to thank all the loyal customers for helping us remain in business as long as we have. I want to thank the town for more than a century of business,” he said.
Frank Kiss Sr. started the business after emigrating from Hungary. Kiss said his grandfather was about 12 or 13 when he came to the U.S., traveling completely alone. Frank Kiss Sr. traveled from Budapest, to France, and then to the U.S. He found an uncle in Ohio, before making his way to Pottstown.
“He started his business with bicycles. Then it evolved into Indian motorcycles,” Kiss said, adding that his grandfather eventually added Royal Enfield and Triumph motorcycles.
Kiss said his grandfather met his wife Bertha — who was also from Hungary — in the U.S.
“My grandmother basically ran the business and my grandfather was the mechanic,” he added.
Kiss said his father, Frank Kiss Jr., left school in the ninth grade to work full-time in the store. When Frank Sr. retired in the early 1960s, Frank Jr. continued the family business; expanding, making improvements to the building and eventually adding racing.
One of the riders, according to Kiss, was Johnny Platcheck, who with the help of Frank Jr., got to the Top 5 in the country.
“But it got to be too much — being involved in the business and running around the country racing,” Kiss added.
When Randy Kiss was 12, his dad built him a race bike and the youngest Kiss began to ride competitively, winning a number of trophies in the lightweight and heavyweight divisions.
“It got to a point where he came to me and said if I wanted to keep racing, we wouldn’t be able to keep the business going. I thought — no,” he said. “This was his dad’s business.”
When he was in 11th grade, Kiss left school to take his place in the family business, focusing on managing, rather than motor building.
Kiss said business was good through the 1960s and 1970s, with the shop sometimes selling as many as 500 units a year. Kiss took over in the 1980s, pulling the business through some recessions; and by the late 1990s, he said the business was again doing well.
In 2001 Kiss bought the building adjacent to his — one of the former locations of the KIWI Co. Kiss eventually was using both floors of that building — 22,000-square-feet — to display as many as 170 units on the second floor and to house the service department.
Kiss said he started to see a change around 2006.
“I could see it happening — this industry started nose-diving and then around 2008 it was just terrible,” he said. In 2009, Kiss said he went into “survival mode,” shutting down the second floor and letting some of his 13 employees go.
Kiss said the segment of the business he’s in — Power Sports — is a leisure product.
“I think we’re the first to go in a slowdown and the last to come back because we’re toys — big boy and girl toys,” he added.
Kiss said that many of his customers are coming in now to have spring maintenance done before storing their bikes for the winter — maintenance they may have put off until spring.
Major discounts are being offered on in-stock apparel and parts — as much as 35 percent at the end of last week. In stock motorcycles and scooters are selling at or below invoice, according to Kiss.
Once the doors close Dec. 23, the work is not finished for Kiss. He needs to clean everything out, clean up and sell “lots” of old parts. But he said he’ll do it on his own schedule.
He then plans to sell two of the three buildings he owns. Kiss plans to hold on to one of the parcels he owns, because it has a big garage attached to it.
“I’ll need that to store the cycles I’m going to keep for myself and Paula — because you can’t just have one motorcycle,” he said with a laugh.
Kiss said he thinks he’ll be keeping at least two bikes for each of them. After all, there are lots of things he wants to do and places he wants to go.
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