Kersting’s Cycle Center & Museum Still a Destination Spot Nearly 60 Years Later
A quality motorcycle is a delicate piece of machinery and requires much time and patience to be constructed in the proper manner. The same could be said of Kersting’s Cycle Center & Museum in Winamac, which is the result of decades of hard work on the part of Jim and Nella Kersting and their children Sandy, Randy and Jason.
Back in 1962 Jim and Nella opened a modest motorcycle and auto repair shop between Winamac and North Judson, and slowly began growing a reputation as a reliable parts and service center.
“Dad was always interested in motorcycles for as long as I can remember and wanted to have a small engine repair shop,” Sandy says. “At some point he filled out a ‘Popular Mechanics’ ad for selling Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and one day a gentleman from Harley showed up at his shop. Ever since then we’ve been a Harley dealer and servicer.”
The Kersting family lived onsite at the shop when the business first opened, and in the early days Jim and Nella would occasionally accept payment from customers in the form of pigs and horses.
“We ate a lot of pork steak,” Sandy says with a laugh. “We lived at the building until I was about five and then we moved into town. Randy is the head mechanic and he was at the shop more than I was back then, since he was five years old hanging around and learning.”
Sandy, who currently co-owns the business along with Randy and Jason, joined the shop in 1989 when Nella, who handled the accounting and office administration side of the business, was preparing to retire.
The Kersting’s facility now spans 27,000 square feet on a total of approximately 40 acres and carries a range of Harley-Davidson bikes as well as Yamaha products. The staff of 15 to 18 people (depending on the season) includes a service department that specializes in both new and used motorcycles.
“We also carry all the accessories you’d want, like motor clothes and other gear,” Sandy adds.
Over the years, Kersting’s has become a destination spot in addition to a bike retail shop, thanks in large part to The World of Motorcycles Museum. In the 1960s, Jim began collecting vintage motorcycles and hardware spanning many decades, and over the years he began showcasing his collection at the shop, realizing that customers and visitors would appreciate the chance to view his bikes and hardware up close. The Kerstings eventually secured 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for the museum, and anyone can view the collection in exchange for a $5 donation.
Sandy says the museum now includes about 160 bikes and cars from Jim’s collection and features models made in the U.S. as well as France, Italy and Germany.
“Dad started out with a small place at the shop upstairs with just a few bikes, and it really grew like crazy with time,” Sandy says. “We’ve built onto the museum once as he found more and more stuff. Dad’s 84 now and he’s slowed down with it, but he was able to get a great collection together over the years.”
The collection includes a 1910 Harley-Davidson motorcycle that Jim acquired after hearing about an individual who had the bike stashed in an attic in several pieces and was about to throw it in the garbage.
“One of this person’s neighbors got a hold of dad, and he came and rescued it,” Sandy says. “He totally redid it and put it back together. He never did a repaint restoration – he always liked to keep bikes looking how they always looked. There’s a great picture of him and my mom dressed in clothing from that 1910 era, riding that motorcycle.”
Jim prides himself on the fact that every single one of the museum motorcycles is either currently functional or was at some point during his ownership. Sandy says it was not uncommon through the years to see Jim pull an old bike out of the museum and take it for a spin through town on Saturdays.
Sandy says keeping the family business in operation for multiple decades has presented plenty of challenges, but along with her parents and siblings, she’s been able to keep Kersting’s successful through a high level of customer service and word of mouth.
“Everybody is always going to have different ideas and different ways of doing things when you have a family working together,” she says. “It’s also hard to find good, qualified people to work here, and we’ve been very lucky since most of our people have been with us over 10 years. People don’t stay at jobs as long as they used to a long time ago, so we’ve been fortunate.”
The increase in online shopping worldwide has also presented a challenge for Kersting’s as a brick-and-mortar store, and Sandy says the staff constantly strives to remain competitive through advertising on social media and marketing the shop as a destination spot.
“Harley has turned a lot of their products over onto Amazon, and you can buy them right there,” she says. “People even just three miles away from us will pay for shipping and order online, and that’s been kind of frustrating.”
Having worked at the shop for more than 30 years, Sandy says family is what keeps her motivated to make Kersting’s the best it can be.
“Seeing my family every day and talking to them is nice – not a lot of people can say that,” she says. “Another thing that’s been great is that I’ve been able to see so many different places, since Harley-Davidson has conventions every year in a different location like San Diego, Seattle, San Antonio, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. That’s been a wonderful benefit every year for me.”
Kersting’s Cycle Center & Museum is located at 8774 West 700 North in Winamac. For more info, call 574-896-2974 and visit kerstingscycle.com.