Harold Mathews, born in 1919, took interest in the Cyclery world rather early in life. As a young kid, Harold would start his day delivering newspapers, with his monkey on his shoulder, anxious to finish up to hang out at Reynolds Cyclery in San Luis Obispo. By the age of fourteen, Elmer Reynolds hired Harold to service bicycles, sweep floors, and wash Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts.
In 1939 he'd meet Eva Mazza, a farm girl who milked cows, stomped grapes in the tub to make wine, and carried water from the pump house up to the family house. Harold would quietly coast his Harley-Davidson down the dirt road to meet Eva during her routine chores pumping water. They both anticipated their daily visits and soon eloped in 1941. Shortly after Eva graduated from high school, she got a job at a paint shop where she worked for the next ten years, while Harold was now turning wrenches on Harley-Davidson motorcycles for Reynolds Cyclery.
Harold used their savings to purchase his first hillclimber in 1947. Eva was disgusted with Harold, and he knew it, as the air was thick during the drive to his first race. Thank goodness Harold delivered by winning, so the drive home was much better as Eva decided this new chapter in their life would be okay after all. She supported the race life, both Hill Climbs and Enduro races, by working the snack bar and always keeping record of each rider's lap times in the race programs. This weekend hobby was their way of life for many years. Harold had many tumbles in his racing days, but he never broke a bone or had a major injury.
Harley-Davidson Motor Company approached Harold in October of 1952 asking if he'd like to purchase a dealership in Merced and go into business for himself. Joe Herb was ready to retire after thirty years as a dealer. Harold worked for Joe out of his existing building for six months as he had to build a new building (on Gustine Road) in order to open his doors in April 1953. Harold and Eva went into debt for $30,000. At that time, things were tight and banks wouldn't help. It was sink or swim. Joe Herb kindly carried the note for Harold & Eva who agreed to pay $15 for every new bike they sold, $10 for every used bike sold, and whatever extra money in between to satisfy the loan.
Harold had $10,000 worth of motorcycles to sell. He and Eva decided to start financing the motorcycles they sold to their customers. Although there were losses along the way, this decision was Harold & Eva's secret to their success!
After eight years of long days and hard work, Harold and Eva were able to pay off their loan and owned the dealership - free & clear. Harley-Davidson Motor Company once again approached Harold & Eva. They were given the opportunity to move to Fresno. Knowing Fresno was a fast growing town, Harold & Eva packed up, lock, stock & barrel and moved the dealership to 548 N. Blackstone Ave in December of 1961. With a trailer in tow, they relocated in just three days. Harold continued the long days of wrenching while Eva did the "bookwork," selling parts, and motorcycles too - all while keeping a watchful eye on their boy Sam who was born in 1955 and started at the dealership when he was just six days old. As Sam grew up, he followed in his dad's footsteps of sweeping floors, washing parts, selling parts, and then wrenching.
In the late 1970's, Fresno started to put in a freeway interchange surrounding the dealership. The neighborhood was moving out, along with the buildings attached to the dealership. The store was left as a "stand alone" surrounded by the freeway and dirt lots. Harold & Eva, knowing that Harley-Davidson Motor Company was continuing to grow, made the wise decision to purchase the surrounding property. Parcel by parcel, they eventually owned the entire city block anticipating the day where they'd out grow the existing 1922 brick building.
In the mid-1990's, Harley-Davidson Motor Company introduced a wide range of clothing and accessories to the line-up. It wasn't just about selling motorcycles and wrenching on them anymore. In 1996 the first expansion of Mathews Harley-Davidson was complete, as a metal building was added to host the service department. This allowed the showroom to expand, making way for clothing, chrome, and many more options to accessorize! Harold often said he never thought he'd own a "boutique!"
The Mathews family presence at the dealership grew in the coming years as the world of Harley-Davidson really took off and began to thrive. Harold & Eva's granddaughter, Melissa, was becoming more involved along with their daughter-in-law, Cara. By 2004, Melinda, the third out of four grandchildren, left her manager position at In-N-Out to support the family business. Malorie, the fourth granddaughter, also spent several years at the dealership as she built her clientele as a hair stylist. When it came to riding with customers, Melanie, the oldest granddaughter, enjoyed accompanying Cara from time to time. By 2006 the first of nine great-grandchildren were born. Everyday life at the dealership, where four generations were often present, had become normal.
Soon after Harold's passing in February of 2009, it was time to get business in order and carry on through the next chapters of life. A ground breaking ceremony was held in December of 2010 for a new showroom and museum. While the many years of having a small & cozy dealership were about to be a thing of the past, it was most important to make sure the new building still felt like "home" for our customers...There's a reason why the office is near the front door with large windows, and, brick is used throughout the dealership. The once in a lifetime project was complete in August 2012 and the existing 1922/1996 buildings were remodeled to host a first class service department.
Fast forward to 2023! It's been ten years since Eva passed away. Sam is retired and Cara isn't quite ready to! Melissa, who started sweeping the floors at the age of eight, and has been on payroll since she was twelve, is responsible for the day to day operations! Melinda runs the service department and also helps Melissa in the showroom. The oldest great-grandchild is seventeen and the youngest is two years old. It's not uncommon to see the great grandkids dumping the trash and sweeping the floors when they aren't in school. We have valued employees - some of whom have been with us since the mid-1990's. Today we celebrate YOU, our customers & extended family. Without you, 70 years of the Mathews Harley-Davidson Legacy wouldn't be possible.