TNT Choppers putting burly bikes on the road

Saturday, May 15, 2004

By Jim Obert

Business Today

EAST CAPE GIRARDEAU, Ill. -- It didn't take long for the new bridge at Cape Girardeau to attract a new business. TNT Choppers, a custom motorcycles dealer, has opened on Route 146 near the Purple Crackle nightclub.

Owner Dave Pearce, who is a partner in a TNT Choppers outlet in Mayfield, Ky., said the new bridge "makes it easier for people to have access to us," and he expects to draw traffic from Interstate 55.

Pearce sells motorcycles manufactured by Big Mike's Choppers based in Oregon and Independence Motorcycles based in Arizona. The choppers are big -- they could be called hogs. They are also colorful, shiny and loud.

"We think this is going to be a really great market," said Pearce, in his office where framed posters of 1960s motorcycle gang flicks line a wall. Several posters have the name "Hell's Angels" in the movie title.

"There's nobody around here doing what we're doing. We're an after-market bike shop where people can get highly customized bikes."

There are nine models of bikes made by Big Mike's Choppers and two models made by Independence Motorcycles. Pearce said he plans to keep at least one of each model in stock. Prices range from $16,000 to $35,000.

Some of the bikes have a rear tire called a 240 -- it's 11 1/2 inches wide. "That is a big, wide tire. Those tires are really hot," said Pearce.

The bikes are prepainted in a wide variety of colors. Many have vivid graphics on the gas tanks and fenders. Pearce said customers can order bikes custom painted at the factory, or he can have them custom painted by local artists. Also, Big Mike's will custom build to a customer's specifications.

Besides selling high-performance motorcycles, some of which look like Harley-Davidsons, TNT Choppers has a complete service department.

"We'll do work on Harleys, bikes from Big Mike's and Independence and the American-made V-twins," said Pearce, adding that work includes tune-ups, parts, repairs and accessories.

Pearce, who rides an orange and black chopper by Big Mike's, has worked on motorcycles since he was 14. He has more than 20 years experience in the trade. One of his business slogans is, "We didn't just jump on the bandwagon."

Motorcycles are delivered to TNT Choppers by special transport -- a double-decker, enclosed, low-boy trailer. Pearce says the trailer can hold from 20 to 45 bikes.

During the two weeks prior to opening, 20 to 30 people a day stopped by to check out the new business, said Pearce.

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