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Take a virtual tour of the World Famous Bargain Barn in this video.

World Famous Bargain Barn more than just a motorcycle parts store, owner says

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Andrew Reuter
March 8, 2015

EDGERTON—If you need an oil filter for your late-model motorcycle, plenty of stores can sell you one.

But if you need something more specific, say an oil tank for a 1970s-era Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster, then you have a tougher search ahead.

That's where the World Famous Bargain Barn at 219 W. Fulton St. comes in.

Owner Ryan Suchanek of Edgerton sells used parts for motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles and watercraft out of the historic tobacco barn. Thousands and thousands of items cover shelves on the three floors of the structure, which was built around 1870.

One example of how this business works is handlebar grips.

Products such as grips sometimes get damaged during shipping. The packaging might be blemished. Maybe there are marks on the grips themselves. Distributors often sell "scratch and dent" items like those to retailers such as Suchanek instead of chucking them.

"They're still functional," he said. "If they're not functional, we throw them away."

Another example is air filters.

A bike owner might replace the original air filter assembly with an aftermarket model to customize the look of the motorcycle. Meanwhile, the old filter is perfectly good.

Instead of letting that filter sit in the garage, the owner might put the item up for sale on the Internet or stop in at the barn to sell it there. If all goes well, Suchanek then buys the part and waits for the right customer.

"People can save some money that way," he said.

Individual sellers might have a tougher time trying to sell those same parts, Suchanek said.

"They don't have the following that we do. We have a lot of people who come in and shop for that specific inventory," he said. "We can move it a lot faster."

In this kind of business, it's hard to pick your inventory, Suchanek said.

"I just want to buy as much stuff as I can and pack as much stuff into the building," he said. "That way, possibly that guy who comes in looking for that specific part will be able to find that specific part. And if he does, I might have 20 or 30 of them."

The business, formerly known as the "B&L Hog Pen," was owned and operated in this way for decades by Bill Collins. A photo of Collins riding a motorcycle still hangs in the lobby.

"He (Bill) was always a really nice guy," Suchanek said. "I liked shopping here."

Suchanek actually bought his first tire at the barn.

"The parts were cheaper than at a, you know, real store," Suchanek said with a chuckle.

When Collins died in 2009, the store changed hands. Suchanek continued to shop there. But about five years ago, the new owner wanted out. Suchanek took his opportunity.

"I'm pretty lucky, to be honest," he said. "I just kind of walked into it."

The business today is fairly similar to the one that Collins ran, though Suchanek has done some things to stay competitive in 2015.

He has added staff. New Store Manager LouAnne DuFour helps customers find specific parts, a task easier said than done in a 300-foot-long barn.

He has added inventory. The barn now has a front room full of new products, including fluids, helmets, jackets and filters.

He has started putting more parts on his website. Doing so both helps the bottom line when things are slow in store and gives customers a glimpse at what they'll find if they visit, he said.

And he has worked to turn the business into a destination, instead of just a store.

"That way, people go out for a ride on a Saturday or Sunday, they're going to be like, 'Well, let's go to the Bargain Barn,'" Suchanek said.

If you visit the barn during the winter, prepare for cold. The majority of the building is unheated.

If you visit the barn during the summer, prepare to mingle.

"We can have a ride of 100 people show up," Suchanek said. "Then they leave, and they tell their buddies. Then they (their buddies) come. I like that."

The barn alone is worth the visit.

Thick wood boards creak beneath your feet. An exposed limestone foundation supports the walls. And hanging in the lobby is a 2014 Guinness World Record for the fastest motorcycle wheelie on ice. (Suchanek was going 109 mph when he earned that one.)

For motorcycle fans, the parts are the real draw.

Visitors can dig through shelves covered in headlights, blinkers, gauges, crankshafts, exhaust pipes, seats, tanks, tires, rims, shocks, suspensions, fairings, windshields, carburetors and footrests, to name a few.

"A lot of this stuff was in the basement of my house before I took it over," Suchanek said.

Remember that Harley oil tank mentioned earlier? It's down in the barn's basement.

"I actually bought this last year off of a guy," he said. "It has a lot of history. It looks old and beat up. That's what an Ironhead is supposed to be."

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