San Francisco Harley-Davidson closes abruptly after 110 years

When Christopher Weber clocked in to his job as a mechanic at San Francisco’s historic Harley-Davidson dealership at 3146 Mission St. last Saturday morning, he expected a typical work day. But, by closing time, Weber said he and over a dozen co-workers were abruptly let go. 

Without warning, the 110-year-old dealership, which had survived two world wars, the Great Depression, and a pandemic, shuttered its doors. Former employees were told Harley-Davidson corporate would take over the location, but corporate headquarters did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

The former employees say the trouble started after new management bought the dealership in 2018. 

The San Francisco Harley-Davidson was founded in 1914 by Dudley Perkins. After being passed along for three generations of Perkins, the dealership was sold in 2018 to two people, including Cliff Chester, who previously owned two other Harley-Davidson dealerships in Idaho and Nevada. Up until then, it had been the world’s longest running family-owned Harley-Davidson dealership. 

Things turned a year in, when the dealership moved from South San Francisco to its current location. “Everything was just kind of chaos,” said Carlos Martinez, who had worked at the dealership for 22 years until he was also let go last week. 

Harvey-Davidson dealerships are independent businesses licensed to sell Harley-Davidson products. However, they must comply with corporate standards. Many of these protocols weren’t followed by the new management, three employees said. Parts sat in a room, unlabeled. Merchandise was lost. Without a system for organizing invoices or a packing list, orders were left unfilled. Less emphasis was placed on building relationships with customers.

Bikes seen through the window of San Francisco Harley-Davidson.
A view inside the San Francisco Harley-Davidson that closed last week on June 26, 2024. Photo by Abigail Van Neely.

The disorganization began to strip the business of its culture, too. “It became just a dealership,” Martinez said. “That’s not the way Dudley Perkins was … you were part of a family, the motorcycle community.”

The place, which was “like a museum” for Harley-Davidson enthusiasts, seemed like it had been “run into the ground,” Weber added. He saw Chester only once every three to six months; Perkins used to be there every day. 

Employees were directed to an independent accounting company, WC Services, LLC, to voice human resources issues. In 2023 and 2024, Weber expressed concerns about theft within the business. “I just don’t want the doors to close at the dealership,” one email concluded. Weber did not receive a response to his most recent email in May. 

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