Mark Wheelinhan & Harley Davidson of Greensboro

by Terry Watson | January 14th, 2016
Mark Wheelinhan (Photo by Howard Gaither)

Mark Wheelinhan (Photo by Howard Gaither)

Nearly 3,000 miles away, there was a young boy facing unconventional circumstances. While most kids at the age of 12 were preoccupied with typical adolescent activities, Mark was acquiring skills that would last him a lifetime.

A native of Oakland, California, Mark says he grew up very poor. He was raised with his two brothers in a two bedroom/one bathroom, 800 square foot home. He got his first job at a fruit stand at the age of 12. “I would get up early every morning before school and go to work. The owner gave me the keys to open the stand and I would stay there until he arrived, and then go to school,” says Mark. The compensation was a mere two dollars per hour, but he worked 50 hours per week. However, that experience showed Mark that the fruit stand owner trusted him, and trust would take him far in life.

After graduating from high school, he says there was no thought of going to college, mainly because his family couldn’t afford to send him or his brothers. His mother worked for an inner city community college in Oakland and his step-father was employed with a telephone company. He knew that in order for him to change his surroundings, he would have to work just as hard as his parents.

After an attempt to pay his way through college at Cal State Hayward, he secured a job at a BMW dealership in Fremont, California. Because of Mark’s hard work and determination, he earned a position as fleet manager within nine months. He would continue his career within the BMW brand for 15 years. Mark’s path later led him to a Mercedes-BMW-Porsche-Rolls Royce-Bentley dealership as General Sales Manager. He aspired to own a BMW dealership, only to be discouraged after learning that he didn’t meet the requirements. Later a friend suggested that he look into opening a Harley-Davidson dealership. Mark bought his first Harley-Davidson motorcycle at age 18. Though it was wrecked, he says it was still a Harley. He had ridden motorcycles his whole young life and saw this as a great accomplishment. Because of his passion for riding, he began researching the idea of becoming a Harley-Davidson dealer. It took three years to qualify. Mark chose to purchase a dealership in North Carolina because of family ties in the southeast.
Harley-Davidson has had a long and rich history in Greensboro. The first location was located on South Elm-Eugene Street which opened in 1937 under the name of Sparky’s. In 1998, Mark put things into action and became the third owner in the dealership’s history. His intention was to “become the dealer forever and not for a short period of time,” so Mark quickly implemented a plan for growth.

Upon the success of the new dealership and his attention to customer service, the market created a demand for two satellite locations in High Point and Reidsville. For nearly eight years the dealerships were recognized for being amongst the top performing Harley-Davidson dealerships in North Carolina. After the recession of 2009, he decided to consolidate the satellite locations and bring everything to their existing location in Greensboro.
This allowed him to focus more on meeting the needs of his customers, staff, and the community. Harley-Davidson of Greensboro is the home dealer to Greensboro, Reidsville, Thomasville, Gibsonville, and most of Rockingham County.

Mark’s background as a highline car dealership operator allowed him to bring best practices and services for a customized Harley-Davidson experience. He has accomplished this by being totally committed to meeting the needs of his customers. There are currently 596 Harley-Davidson dealerships. Harley-Davidson of Greensboro is number one in the Southeast and number two in the United States, rated by their customers. “We are so fortunate to have customers think so highly of us. Regardless of what the economy is doing, if you are treating your customers right your business has a solid foundation,” he says. An example of his commitment to providing superior customer service happens in the Service Department. They offer to pick-up and deliver for those who live within a reasonable distance.

Mark admits that he is a bit reserved, however he is passionate about remaining active in the community. He supports various charitable organizations and events. “If you want a lasting relationship with your customers, you must engage with your community,” he says. “A lot of businesses just take, and do not give back. We give back.” Some of these include Brenner Children’s Hospital, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Field of Honor, Wounded Warrior Project, MDA, Susan B. Koman, Victory Junction, Duke Children’s Research Center, Greensboro Children’s Museum, Women Resource Center of Greensboro, Family Service of the Piedmont, and Juvenile Diabetes. He also serves or has served as a board member with the Greensboro Merchants Association, Operation Smile, Crime Stoppers and D.A.R.E.

There is something for everyone at Harley-Davidson of Greensboro. With one out of every five customers currently being female, Mark was excited to create the first Harley-Davidson authorized all-women’s Harley Owner Group in the world. He also welcomes other groups and supports various rides throughout the year.

He doesn’t dwell on the fact that he had a tough upbringing and how his biological father wasn’t involved in his life as a child. Instead he embraces the life that he has now. Unfortunately, Mark has lost his parents as well as his two brothers. He has replaced these voids with the new family and friends that God has placed in his life.

Mark is happily married and dedicated to being actively involved in the lives of his children. He is very adamant about not missing one single activity or occasion. He has one daughter and two sons, one of whom recently joined the United States Marine Corps. Though he wants the very best for his kids, he says they are not entitled to a free ride through life or even guaranteed a job at his dealership. “They must work just as hard as I did, and as my parents did. That is how I learned and what has helped to make me into what I am today,” he says. If one of his children decides to come and work at his company, he says they must start at the bottom.

Moving forward, Mark plans to keep the wheels turning at Harley-Davidson of Greensboro. He encourages everyone to stop by and learn more about what they have to offer. It is more than just motorcycles. It’s an experience that he has tailored made for everyone that has ever dreamed about owning a “Harley”.

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