(Angela and John Stewart after completing their first day of ownership of the Wildhorse Harley-Davidson & Kawasaki store in Bend | Photos Courtesy of Angela Stewart)
When Angela Stewart was a little girl, she grew up around lots of boys. Her siblings are all brothers, and her cousins in the same age range are also all boys. As such, she spent her formative years riding dirt bikes, quads and three-wheelers, and says she learned to ride before her feet could touch the ground. “We camped and fished and just really enjoyed the great outdoors,” said Stewart. “We grew up in Washington and Idaho, in mostly rural areas.” Switching over to riding a street bike naturally happened at some point in her early 20s, she said. “The circle of friends around me were mainly on Harley-Davidsons, so that is the direction I ended up going. I feel that it could have been any brand back then, but it was my peers who led me to these wonderful motorcycles originally.”
After graduating high school, Stewart obtained a two-year degree in accounting, and applied for and was hired as a part-time bookkeeper for the Harley-Davidson dealer in Spokane, Washington. “I worked there for six years, and during that time, worked my way up to general manager of the store for my final two years there.” She then applied for and was accepted into the Harley-Davidson Motor Company corporate/manufacturing side of the business, where she worked on the sales side for 20 years, ending her career as director of the Western United States for HDMC. “My husband and I had settled in Bend by that time, because we have always loved it here and I had a brother who had been living here for more than 20 years. We had been traveling through here — myself for over 20 years and my husband for over 40 years — for a long time. We ended up buying a home here about six years ago.”
Stewart and her husband, John, have been friends/colleagues with their now partner — who owned the Harley-Davidson dealership in Bend — for about 12 years, and had discussed the business many times over the years, she said. “After a lot of talking, we ended up putting a deal together to buy into the business here and buy him out over time. That was May of 2019; we have had a lot of fun!”
Stewart is now the onsite operating owner and general manager of Wildhorse Harley-Davidson & Kawasaki, and John is also in the business, performing a variety of duties in the store including working in service and parts and accessories. “Our partner has other stores in Arizona, where he lives, and Washington, and acts as an advisor to me as we work to grow the business here in Bend. It has been a wonderful partnership.”
The building in which the Bend dealership is housed, located at 63028 Sherman Road, has been here for more than 20 years and was built specifically as a Harley-Davison store. “The first time I stood in this building was when it was originally being built. It has served the area well all this time, and we are happy to still be here in this spot,” she said.
Although COVID has affected the dealership like it has with most other businesses, she said that all things considered, they are pleased with how the year is going. “COVID definitely impacted us like it has so many businesses, but we weren’t sure just how much it would impact when this all started. We are happy to still be here providing a service to the motorcycling community, and jobs to the local area.” She added, “We all like to say that this is one of the better ways we can think of to socially distance. We all have our masks (helmets) on, are wearing gloves and are spaced more than 6 feet apart on our motorcycles. Sounds perfect to us!” she said with a laugh.
This year, Stewart said they are excited to announce that they are adding to the business by bringing the Kawasaki brand into the store. “There is so much to do both on and off road here in Central Oregon that we just had to add both sides to the business. The future looks very exciting to us.”
Stewart said that she has always been a glass-half-full girl who looks for ways to solve situations rather than dwell on the negative. “I really believe that this is part of what drives me forward every day and has added to my success over the years. So when challenges are in front of me — whether it is navigating retail in a bit of an expensive travel destination area such as Bend, or COVID-19 hitting within the first year of buying a small business after leveraging so much to come up with a down payment — I just get up every morning, put my shoes on one foot at a time, and get to work.” She added, “What’s driving me during all this uncertain time? To have a successful business, provide a great motorcycling experience for the community and give as many folks as we can an environment where they want to come to work every day.”
In looking back over the years, Stewart says she has come much farther in her life than she ever dreamed she would or could. “This truly has been such a rewarding career. I did what so many talk about: I took something I love to do and turned it into a career. It has been so great, pretty much everyone I have been in contact with over the course of my Harley-Davidson career has been great to me. I have always felt like there was opportunity to grow in my career.” She added, “I feel like my greatest triumph has been that through hard work, and recognition for that hard work, I have been able to make a 27-year-career out of one of my passions. I am truly grateful for where I am and also respectfully nervous, as a business owner, of my responsibilities to the many families we have employed here and the family we are a part of in this Wildhorse Harley-Davidson & Kawasaki community.”