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Petition started to get former Shenandoah Harley-Davidson dealership owner back in business

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 4:54 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — Shenandoah Harley-Davidson closed its doors permanently on Aug. 18. Now, community members are working to get a former dealership owner back in the business.

"The slate inside when you walk in is the slate from my mom and dad's train depot roof growing up," Bob Ladd, the owner of the building, said.

Ladd designed and built the building where the Shenandoah Harley-Davidson dealership sits, which he owned from January 1998 to October of 2011.

The economy started taking a downturn in 2008, which led Ladd to sell the dealership.

"From 16.7 million in 2007 to 11 million in 2009. And by the time I sold the business in 2011, it was down to about 9 million a year," Ladd said.

Over the years, Shenandoah Harley-Davidson became more than just a dealership.

"We used to do memorials here, we've done weddings here. We've done celebrations of life here. People got attached to this. It was really a part of their life," Ladd said.

The dealership also hosted many big entertainment and charity events.

"We did a thing called Freedom Relief Rides," Ladd said. "I thought, I can do more than write a check."

For its first year, people raised money that would go toward relief agencies that served Pentagon victims' families in order to be a part of a ride from Shenandoah Harley-Davidson to the Pentagon.

425 motorcycles left the dealership with 28 police bike escorts, making their way to Washington D.C. raising $27,001.

"I don't think there's anything finer than a solider, and I don't think there's anything sadder than a battered family member, especially a child, so we were really involved with New Direction here and other agencies and charities," Ladd said.

Shenandoah Harley-Davidson was a major destination for riders in the Valley, and with it being located right off the I-81, it attracted riders from all over the country and even the world who were passing through.

Now with the dealership closed, community members have started a petition to get Ladd back in the business. So far, it has reached over 1,000 signatures.

"We'd like to have four to five thousand to really make an impression on Harley-Davidson to show them how important it is to not only have a Harley-Davidson dealership back here but also to have Bob Ladd back here," Ginger Ham, who helped start the petition, said.

Ladd said he really enjoyed his time owning the business, and he's doing his best to get the dealership back up and running.

“Not even a dream come true. I’ve never dreamed this big. It was just thoughts that evolved and I want to do it all over again,” Ladd said.

Community members said it might not be easy to start the business back up, but they said Ladd is always up for a challenge.

“It won’t sit here empty, but he’ll do something with it. I’d like to see a Harley dealership back here, but if it all falls through, I’ll support whatever he does.”

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