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The iconic Indian Motorcycle, America's first motorcycle, is being sold at a new dealership on Accdess Road, an affiliate of Crockett Powersports.
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An Indian motorcycle.

One of the oldest and most prominent brands in American motoring is back in Chattanooga.

And it looks like this: matte black, 100-horsepower and 500 pounds begging to tackle the Tail of the Dragon. Or, classic cream and red, with the glossy finish of a showcase diamond twinkling under track lighting in an afternoon showroom — the perfect companion for a long ride down a sun-stained highway.

It's also in the cursive, Indian Motorcycle name and the thrown-back headdress of the motorcycle company's iconic male Native American logo, now prominently displayed all over the city's new dealership.

Indian Motorcycle of Chattanooga — an affiliate of locally-owned Crockett Powersports — quietly opened around three weeks ago in the old Lighting Gallery building off Access Road near Amnicola Highway.

And the building now bears little resemblance to its old self. A tall, new covered entrance and an oval, red Indian Motorcycle sign are the first things to catch the eye of passing motorists.

And the glint of sunshine on motorcycle bodies out front.

The new motorcycle dealership — which sells Indian Motorcycle, Victory Motorcycles and Polaris' Slingshot vehicle — is under the ownership and operation of John Crockett, a retired Penske Truck Leasing vice president, and a longtime misplaced Tennessean who heard home calling and wanted to move back to the Volunteer State from Atlanta.

Crockett rides an Indian bike himself, and it was an Indian bike that turned him onto the brand after 30 years of riding a competitor's product.

"Once I rode it, I was converted," he said. "I was so impressed, I bought some Polaris stock."

In 2011, Polaris Industries — American maker of many recreation vehicles, including Victory — bought Indian Motorcycle, the oldest American motorcycle brand. The company until then had struggled to keep up with other domestic motorcycle manufacturers.

Crockett's love for his personal Indian bike crept over into the realm of business interest, and he inquired with Indian Motorcycle about opening a local dealership.

He wanted to be in the Southeast, and was living in Atlanta at the time. Chattanooga was one of the locations Indian identified to Crockett as a market where opening a new shop made sense.

And Crockett jumped on it.

He mentions Chattanooga's recent accolades courtesy of Outdoor Magazine. And the mountain roads and the scenic drives so close to the city — a dreamland for lovers of riding and driving.

"It doesn't get any better than this," said Crockett. "This is just the ultimate. It's the right place."

Before Crockett's store opened, word was already spreading on online motorcycling community pages and forums. The rumors were scary accurate, he remembers.

But for local owners and lovers of the Indian and Victory brands, the thought of having a local dealer and service department again was exciting. For the past few years, the closest dealers were in Knoxville, Nashville and Atlanta.

Vic Attlee lives in East Ridge and was the first customer to buy a bike from Indian Motorcycle of Chattanooga. He stopped in at the shop Friday afternoon to check on the availability of some aftermarket parts.

Attlee's work commute takes him by the Access Road shop daily, and "I saw the evolution" of the old building-turned new power sports dealership, he says.

And after finally seeing new bikes arrive on trucks at the shop, Attlee stopped one Saturday morning to peek through the front window at whatever had rolled out on the showroom floor.

By chance, Crockett and his wife were in town checking out houses and were driving north on Highway 153 at the same time, and saw two bikers standing in the unopened dealership's parking lot and looking through the front glass.

Crockett turned around at the Amnicola Highway overpass and talked with Attlee, who wound up buying a blue Indian cruiser later on after the store had actually opened.

Attlee belongs to a riding club in in Ringgold, and says had it not been for Crockett's shop being local, he probably wouldn't have bought into the Indian Motorcycle brand.

"I told my wife if this dealership is not a bunch of good, friendly folks, I'm going back to Harley," he said.

Crockett says there's still plenty of work to be done to get the 10,000-square-foot store and service department to where he wants it, but he feels good about how things have started.

The dealership right now carries new bikes, safety and other branded apparel and offers service for Indian, Victory and Slingshot owners.

Indian Motorcyle of Chattanooga also accepts bike trades and will help customers find financing for new purchases.

Crockett has put together a staff of five, all with experience in powersports. And he said as the business grows, he'll be looking to hire more. But for now, he is content taking it a step at a time and watching the word of mouth spread.

"I feel great," he said. "I feel more excited about it with each day."

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

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