Burt Ives Honda has reopened. The motorcycle dealership on Route 66 in Columbia, CT that dates back to 1931 has been closed since December after Kenny Ives purchased the store from his father, Ken Ives Sr. It has undergone a thorough remodeling over the past five months and, while some finish work still needs to be done, reopened on Monday.
New Honda motorcycles and scooters were being rolled on to the showroom floor on May 15 even though masking tape revealed newly-painted surfaces, speaker wire dangled from the ceiling, and cabinetry and decorative accents had yet to be installed.
“We gutted it to the studs – all the wiring, plumbing, everything. We tore it right to nothing and started over,” said Ives in an interview that was frequently interrupted by his ringing cell phone and workers with questions.
What exists now is a modern, 4,000-square-foot showroom backed by a 1,000-square-foot service area. The original building went up in 1930. From 1931 until the early 1960s, Burt Ives, who was Kenny Ives’ grandfather, sold Harley-Davidsons. Honda came aboard more than 50 years ago.
Early on, Burt Ives and his wife lived in attached living quarters and raised their family there. When they eventually built a house of their own a short distance away on Route 66, the live-in quarters continued to be occupied. “Mom and Dad moved in and lived there,” said Ives, reporting that the dealership was literally his first home.
One memorable feature of the old dealership was a manually-operated cash register. “I have a picture of me about one year old sitting on the glass counter next to the cash register,” said Ives, who is 44. That cash register is still on site, and Ives fetched it from storage in the basement. It will reoccupy a place of decorative prominence on the counter once the dealership re-opens.
Also getting a spot on the wall, no doubt, will be a vintage uniform from “Burt’s Riders M/C” of Willimantic, CT, a club his grandfather had. From the looks of it, it could date to the 1930s or 1940s.
Burt Ives kept the business until the early 70s when he sold to Ken Ives Sr. and his brother, Bill Ives. As a kid, Ives worked there for his father. “I started working for him when I was really young putting new bikes together – ’82 or ’83,” he said.
Ives left Burt Ives Honda in 1998 and went to work for New England Cycle Center in Hartford. His goal was to have his own dealership, which he accomplished in 2002 when he opened Chaplin Kawasaki in Chaplin, CT, a store that he continues to own. He laughed that in four years he went from earning one-half minimum wage to owning a motorcycle dealership.
“I probably have about a hundred new Hondas in stock,” said Ives, explaining that most were stored at Chaplin Kawasaki during the renovation of Burt Ives Honda.
Ives’ hopes for his new dealership are simple. “Just do the best we can – stay in business and pay the bills,” he said.