'It's going to be fabulous': Harley-Davidson to relocate from New Castle to Middletown

Thousands of drivers see it every day. A towering sign beckons motorcyclists to Rommel's Harley-Davidson in New Castle.

The site was once known as Mike's Famous. A small structure with a pointed orange roof is left from the days when Howard Johnson's occupied the site.

Near the end of the month, Harley-Davidson will be moving out, shifting its personnel and its inventory of motorcycles, equipment, helmets and leather jackets to the Smyrna facility while a new dealership is being built in Middletown.

"It is a very eclectic facility, and it's a cool facility," General Sales Manager Gene Lambert said of the Route 9 property close to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. "But, the reality is the needs of the customers are changing and the industry is changing."

"You have to have a facility that matches up with the customer experience that you want to create," Lambert said.

Harley-Davidson nationally was coming off a year of sluggish sales. Lambert, however, sees a younger customer base starting to get interested in motorcycles, thought by many still to be mostly ridden by heavily-tattooed men and women - many of whom are baby-boomers.

"They're working on a lot of new motorcycles that will appear to a younger crowd. Some of that takes time," Lambert said.

Rommel's is hoping its new facility in Middletown near the Amazon facility will lure the current multi-state base of customers when it opens sometime in 2020. According to owner Dave Rommel, the Middletown facility is being built from the ground up with the Harley rider in mind.

"This new facility will provide our customers with what they've been telling us they want, like expanded service capabilities, a larger selection of motorcycles, a huge parts and accessories inventory, the latest in Harley-Davidson fashion and most of all a great location with tremendous amenities close by," Rommel added.

The new location will include a permanent Heroes Memorial dedicated to military and first responders.

Chris Carlini of New Castle, who rode his motorcycle to Rommel's to do some shopping Wednesday, said he won't mind making a longer trip to Middletown.

"It will be a nicer cruise over to Middletown, a longer ride," Carlini said.

"Everybody's very friendly here," Chris's brother Anthony Carlini said. "It's like one big family."

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.