More than a million dollars of carbon fiber, stainless steel and unspoiled rubber wait silently in the showroom at Pandora's European Motorsports, the new BMW and Ducati motorcycle shop that will celebrate a grand opening Saturday.
Located at 4784 Highway 58, the business being launched by principal dealer Justin Prann comes onto the scene after the completion of a $80,000 renovation.
Mr. Prann said that after two years years at the helm of BMW's USA motorcycle parts division, he realized that selling bikes in Chattanooga was what he wanted to do in his life.
"I saw Spartanburg grow after BMW opened up a plant there, so when I heard about Volkswagen building a factory here, this was where I wanted to go," he explained.
an angel investor
Selling high-powered motorcycles that cost in excess of $20,000 brings a certain type of customer, and Mr. Prann said he wants Pandora's to serve as a "clubhouse" for enthusiasts who enjoy sleek lines and thundering quarter-mile times. A rider himself, he has already organized several track days for area owners, but he wants to appeal to the off-roading segment, too.
"In order to ride these bikes the way they're supposed to be ridden, you'd have to ride all day in the hills," he said. "So we're developing a parcel of land near downtown to allow riders to conquer all those obstacles without getting into back country."
Carbon fiber-wrapped 110-horsepower behemoths can be dangerous if confidence exceeds skill, but Mr. Prann's father, John, said it's not as hard as it looks.
"If you can drive a car with a manual transmission, you can ride a bike," John Prann said, but he said there are some safety concerns, especially for young riders. "You don't just throw them the keys to the bike. As a businessman, you want to make a sale, but it's got to be a safe sale."
Justin Prann describes his retired father as a "financial angel" who moved to Chattanooga from Colorado and supported his dream, even in the face of a soft economy.
With a large number of high-end motorcycle owners already living in Chattanooga, the elder Prann said a large part of Pandora's business will come from service.
"In a market like Chattanooga, the service side is what's going to make this shop a success," John Prann said.
He's not too worried about the economy, because even though the motorcycle market got hit hard by the recession, "BMW and Ducati got hit the least hard," he said.
All seven employees at Pandora's are motorcycle enthusiasts, "even the comptroller," said the younger Prann, and the service employees are no exception.
BMW master technician Randy Conner used to work at another shop, but when he heard that Pandora's was going to be a shop run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, he wanted in.
"I called them and told them to keep me in mind, and they said, how about now?" Mr. Conner said, as he examined the transmission on an older BMW.
Ben Brace, the shop's Ducati master technician, revealed that of the two brands, the special tools needed to access the Ducati's engine made it more difficult to work with.
Both men laughed and worked as a dozen bikes in need of repair stretched out behind them, a backlog of business stacked up before the shop had even officially opened.