How do we stay small and sell big? It's simple: years of experience. At Bickford's Sport Center, our mission is to offer you the latest in parts and products, at the best prices, and with unparalleled service. We pledge to use our best efforts to make your experience both beneficial and enjoyable. Once you give us a try, we're sure you'll be back for more!
It was 45 years ago, Sam Bickford was 35 years old when he got into the snowmobile business. “It was by accident,” he said, laughing. “I was in road construction, and one of the guys went up north for Christmas and he came back with this little Ski-Doo.
“We all said, ‘You’re nuts,’” Bickford remembered. “But soon we were all outback riding it around. It was a lot of fun.”
That little ‘Doo was the beginning of something BIG. The year was 1966, and Sam Bickford decided to start selling sleds as a sideline. Not able to get a Ski-Doo franchise right away, Bickford settled for Moto-Ski. That first year he received just four of them, a 1967 Moto-Ski Zephyr was the first machine he sold.
With Bickford concentrating on snowmobiles during the winter and his wife, Sue, running the sled business in the summer months, their hobby quickly grew. By the early 1970s, Bickford was ready to make sleds his full-time occupation.
“We were selling quite a few snowmobiles, and I had been working in construction since I got out of the service at age 21. I was tired of getting up at 4 a.m. everyday,” he said with a laugh, explaining his rational for getting out of the building business and into sled sales.
The increased focus on snowmobiles meant Bickford would need more space. “The first shop was actually at the construction shop, we just worked out of the little space there,” he described.
“Then we moved down along the highway because we needed the exposure,” he said. “The business kept growing to where we needed a retail shop. I couldn’t sell out of my two-car garage anymore.”
Right after the Bickford’s moved into their new building, they added Ski-Doo to Moto-Ski, which would eventually entail dropping Moto-Ski. “We stayed with Moto-Ski until Bombardier gave them up,” said Sam. “During the energy crisis, Bombardier had to make a decision. They were the same sled, just a different color, and Moto-ski never really sold west of the Mississippi anyway,” he said.
It was now 1995, besides adding to their facility, Sam and Sue Bickford added to their family, now their son Bill Bickford and daughter Paula Smith own the business. Bill Bickford as you may know, is one of the top grass drag racers of the decade, and now his nephew, Chris, is taking over the racing ranks. Their racing success helps promote Bickford's Sport Center.
Today, Bickford’s is a multi-line dealer with Ski-Doo being priority. They keep busy in the summer months with the selling and service of Shoremaster Docks, Boat Lifts and Swim Rafts.
Business is booming at Bickford’s. They’ve sold an average of 200 Ski-Doo snowmobiles with 2001 being the largest ever. So how has Bickford’s managed to succeed for45 years?
“The first thing is you have to enjoy the sport, and we do,” said Sam, noting that he still rides between 2,500-3,000 miles every year. “Second, you have to be a good dealer. If you don’t do well in the service department, you’re not gonna sell to people year after year. I’m proud that we can service what we sell and keep customers happy,” he continued. “And that’s the secret behind any selling business.”
A true enthusiast, Bickford, like anyone involved in the sport for over 45 years, has seen major changes in the sleds.
“When we first started riding snowmobiles, they were like Model Ts, now they are like Cadillac’s. Most of the guys don’t have any problems at all. They used to break all the time, he continued. Over the last 10 years, most of the work we do are crashes. Our warranty work has been very minimal.”
As I edit and type this interview from Snowmobile Business, it makes me think how much hard work was involved into the growth and strength of Bickford's Sport Center. As out motto states, "Champion's in Service," we will strive to continue this tradtion for many years to come.