50th Anniversary

Fifty years is a long time. A lot changes in half a century. The world of 2015 is a far cry from the world of 1965. Throughout all the ups and downs, Hayden Honda has been part of the Kendallville community, selling motorcycles.

In that time, we’ve moved, we’ve expanded, we’ve built new buildings. We’ve taken on new products, changed employees, watched our kids grow up. We’ve grown perhaps a bit more gray than when we started. . . .

Our roots lie beyond 1965, back in the 1920s, in the building where Clyde Hayden, Kurt’s grandfather, started Hayden Welding after trying his hand at homesteading in North Dakota. That building’s long gone. It once stood in the lot where Walgreens is now.

Hayden Welding didn’t remain at that location for long, but moved to the corner of Williams and Orchard, where the parking lot across from Campbell & Fetter Bank is now. Clyde rented the space until he bought a building from George Campbell, the great-grandfather of our parts manager, Karen Richards. His first rental payments were $25 a month.

Clyde’s son Russell returned from WWII and bought the business in 1948 at the age of 21. It cost him $8500. He changed the name to Hayden and Son Welding. For nearly 20 years, he welded, repaired radiators, and worked on lawnmowers at that location.

In the late ‘50s, Russell began selling and servicing Homelite chainsaws, adding McCulloch a few years later. The McCulloch rep, Dick Strater, first introduced Russell to motorcycles. Russell bought a Bridgestone, liked it, and decided he wanted to sell them. Strater, though, knew the business. “If you want to sell bikes,” he told Russell, “sell Hondas.”

In 1965, Russell sold his first Honda, a CT90, to Karl Sprandel. And so Hayden Honda was born.

Karl’s family still owns the bike, and it is on display at Hayden Honda.

By this time, Russell had moved the business to a building he built on the corner of Lincoln and Drake, where Kirby Risk is now. His brother-in-law and partner, Sheldon Groh, worked the retail end as Russell continued to weld.

A year later, in February 1966, Rick Temple began working in parts and service at the age of 18. Now, nearly 50 years later, he’s still with us as a technician at Hayden Rental. You could say he has experience.

In the fall of 1966, Sheldon died of a heart attack. Mary Frances, Russell’s wife, began working in parts and keeping the books. And Kurt, a sixth grader at the time, began sweeping floors and cleaning up. (This proves his employee records, which list his date of employment as “Birth,” incorrect.)

A decade later, in 1977, Russell purchased Shook’s Kawasaki and Arctic Cat on the corner of US 6 and SR 3, where we are still located today. That winter, he and Kurt used their new snowmobiles to get around town during the blizzard of 1978. We carried Kawasaki, Arctic Cat, Skidoo, Polaris and Yamaha snowmobiles at one point.

Newly married Deb Hayden began work in 1978 as well.

After an extended trip to Germany and Egypt, Kurt decided to invest his life in the family business and took the reins in 1980. That same year, Kurt’s first son, Nick, was born. There has rarely been a day since without his kids (or grandkids) running around the business. In fact, all his kids have worked for the business at some point.

Nick now manages the accounts, and Haley runs the finance department. Zach does graphics and web promotions.

Kurt’s brother-in-law, Mike Longardner, started in 1981, at the age of 20. Later, Ralph Longardner joined as a technician, then became our service manager. These two represent another part of the family business.

In the mid-80s, we took on Stihl after buying out Edsalls, and began our annual Saw Dust Days in 1985, a favorite event for local loggers. The event’s still going strong.

Hayden Honda continued to grow throughout the ‘90s. We completed our first trike in 1993, adding to our line of products. We’ve sold over 400 trike kits since.

By 1997, space had run out. We not only sold new Honda motorcycles and ATVs but also lawn mowers, generators, and snowmobiles, and we rented Budget Trucks and large equipment, all out of the same building. We opened a second store, Hayden Rental and Power Equipment, originally located just minutes from Hayden Honda.

After the turn of the century, Kurt began dreaming of becoming a Level 5 Honda Powerhouse dealer. We had begun with selling Honda, and Honda had always been at the heart of our business. It would mean a new, larger building and a renewed focus on the Honda brand.

In January 2007, we moved into our new building, becoming one of just 50 Level 5 Honda Powerhouse dealers in the United States and the only one in Indiana.

Nationwide, 2007 was a record-breaking year for the motorcycle industry, and we followed with our best year in 2008.

In 2009, the economic downturn hit the industry hard, cutting motorcycle sales in the US in half. Hayden Honda weathered the lean years, the close-knit family of employees working together through those rough times. Hayden Rental returned to the now-larger building, bringing all the product lines under one roof.

As we enter 2015, our employees have a combined 320 years of service, with an average of 16 years’ experience per employee. On any given day, a customer might see any number of Kurt’s six grandchildren running around the showroom. Through all the changing times, a commitment to our employees and family has stayed constant.

Above all, that’s what these 50 years have taught us—while things change, certain core principles should remain the same: why you do business, how you do business. As we confront the opportunities and challenges of the next 50 years, we’ll keep the same principles close.