The roar of motorcycles during Bikes, Blues and BBQ means another sound for local businesses — the ka-ching of the cash register.
If recent years’ numbers hold true, the annual Northwest Arkansas motorcycle rally will bring more than 400,000 people to the region. Those people must eat, sleep and pay to gas up their bikes as they venture out on some of the country’s most scenic byways.
The economic impact does not stop there, however. Many local businesses say they benefit when the bikers come to town. Local tattoo parlors, for example.
“We definitely see a big influx of business,” said Cat Fury from Clockwork Tattoo in Fayetteville. “When they had the parade come down by the (NWA Mall) to Dickson, that meant that all the riders would see the North College Avenue shops, including our tattoo shop.”
The riders return to shops they see along the parade route to check them out later, which means businesses in their path see more customers for the weekend, Fury said.
It also helps that they have an information booth at the rally letting visitors know of specials at their shop. This is a much more cost-effective means of building business compared to affording the expense of having a tattoo booth actually on Dickson, according to Fury.
“What you don’t see a lot of during Bikes Blues is the locals,” she said. “Most avoid the traffic.”
The Pig Trail Harley Davidson shop in Rogers is a natural place for bikers to congregate during the five-day festival, but they increase their business even more by hosting a vendor fair at the same time.
This year’s vendor fair will feature about 60 different businesses, said Buck Blanchard, marketing and events manager. There will be plenty of food and shopping for bikers of both sexes and all ages. There will also be tattoo booths, massage chairs, patch sewers and other services that bikers might find useful. Finding the right mix of vendors to interest bikers is key to a successful event, he said.
“It’s the only time that a guy and his girl can shop together and be cool,” he said with a chuckle.
The vendor fair is a perfect fit for the other weekend activities as Blanchard said “bikers come here during the day when they aren’t riding, then they go to Dickson at night (for the main events),”
Of course the shop sells a lot of motorcycles during the week. Bikers will see a bike they want and trade in their ride for the new one.
“We’ll roll 30,000 to 50,000 people through our store during that time,” Blanchard said. “But that’s just an estimate. It could be more than that. We are the largest Harley Davidson dealer in the state and we do a lot of brisk business that week. It’s our Christmas.”
Blanchard said other local businesses should capitalize on the influx of people by putting out signs that welcome the bikers.
“The local businesses haven’t figured out how to capture those dollars,” he said. “An average customer will spend $200 a day (per person).
“There’s all kinds of things that can happen if a business can find a way to market to the 350,000 plus people,” he continued. “(Bikers) are regular folks. We need furniture. We need to eat,” he said. “It’s up to the business owner to take advantage of that.”
Local businesses in towns outside Fayetteville and Rogers are trying to capture the dollars as well.
Hubba Bubba Subz is located on Highway 16 in Elkins — along the path of one of the popular rides during the rally. The sub shop always has a sign up on the side of the building that welcomes bikers and they recently expanded their hours to include Saturdays. The shop is under new ownership and owner Don Plumlee said he hopes to see plenty of bikers come in. Both he and his sons are avid riders.
“We get a lot of bikers come through here, not just during Bikes Blues,” Plumlee said. “We would love for them to have (the shop) as a destination as they’re riding the trails”
He said the bikers’ business is “nothing but prosperity for us.”