Motorcycles go faster than riding mowers, but mechanically they’re not that different. “Even the sizes are equivalent,” says Dan Weingartz. So when his family opened its fifth Weingartz outdoor power equipment store in the former Harley-Davidson dealership on Jackson in early April, Weingartz says, the repair shop “was pretty turnkey for us.” The showroom was a different story: “We needed more showroom space than they needed. All in all, we still spent half a million dollars.”
Dan’s grandfather, Ray Weingartz Sr., founded the company in 1945. He passed it on to his son Ray Jr. and his wife, who passed it on to their seven kids (four boys and three girls) two years ago. “We all started working in the store when we were twelve or thirteen,” says Dan, who’s now thirty-eight and president of the company.
That first store was in Utica. They opened a second in Farmington Hills in 1991, a third in Cedar Springs (north of Grand Rapids) in 1994, and a fourth in Clarkston in 2003. The Ann Arbor store is the culmination of a four-year search. “We identified what we thought was a very good demo,” Weingartz says. “Our typical customer is a little upscale, with some lawn area.” He adds that Ann Arbor is a particularly attractive market because it’s done relatively well in tough economic times, compared to some of their other markets in Michigan. And Ann Arbor represents “a nice rounding out of southeast Michigan. We started out in east, then opened stores in the northeast, the northwest, north central, and now the southwest.”
Customers are divided almost evenly between home owners and landscape contractors. The stores carry brands like Cub Cadet, Exmark, Toro, and John Deere, with their biggest sellers being lawn tractors and enormous “zero-turn” mowers that can turn on a dime and cut a lot of grass, fast. Those start at around $2,500 for a consumer model with a blade of up to fifty inches; commercial models can go as high as $13,000 with a sixty-inch blade. Snow blowers are another big seller, and they also carry hand tools, but Weingartz says the selection is very limited. “Most everything we have has a motor on it.”
Weingartz, 5436 Jackson. 239-8200. Mon. & Thurs. 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Tues., Wed. & Fri. 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Closed Sun. www.weingartz.com