Nova Scotia Motorcycle Business Made From Old Parts
British Classic Revived
Mark Appleton has been hanging around motorcycle shops since he was a teenager in Toronto. He’s tweaked his passion for motorcycles into a $2-million-a-year business, run from the side of a mountain in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. British Cycle Supply Company, established by Mr. Appleton in 1977, today is the largest supplier of parts for classic British bikes in Canada and the fourth largest in the United States. By the late 1980s, the demise of the motorcycle industry in Britain was complete. It was literally the end of the line for Thumph, Norton and BSA - the big three manufacturers of British bikes, But the era wasn’t over for Mr. Appleton, and he didn’t believe it was over for other afficionados. So he stepped in and bought out dealer stock and importers inventory from around the world. "In the beginning," he says, "everybody thought we were absolutely crazy buying up these old parts. It was like buying up parts of the Edsel". Today, approximately half of those parts are sold to repair shops across Canada and the U.S., where British Cycle has a branch office in New Jersey; the remaining stock is sold to individual bike owners. There are more than 20,000 customers in the company’s database. When Mr. Appleton first set up business, he had no employees and 2,000 square feet under an autobody shop on Main Street in Wolfvllle, N.S. Now he has more than five times the space, located on what was once an old rabbit farm tucked into the side of Melanson Mountain, 10 kilometres outside of Wolfville. There are also more than 5,000 square feet in the New Jersey office and 13 full-time employees. To help ensure a steady supply of parts for British bikes, Mr. Appleton has kept samples of all the old inventories. When he can no longer find a particular part, he can often find the original manufacturer.
Donalee Moulton, Financial Post, Monday July 12, 1999