GPRC Gets Motorcycle Shop Owner's Career Rolling
Monday, April 6th, 2020
Stephen Graf’s decision to enrol at GPRC revved up the success of his business ownership.
That was 35 years ago and now the Smithers B.C. resident is the 2020 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Graf owns and manages Harley-Davidson® of Smithers which he and his wife, Brenda, are slowing down this year as they ride off into retirement.
He was a graduate of the first Harley-Davidson® Technician Certificate course at what is now the GPRC Fairview Campus.
“I really value the experience I had at Fairview College (now GPRC). I met a lot of good people up there and learned a ton. I don’t think I could have done what I did without going to the college and learning what I did.”
Over the years, Graf has supported GPRC with financial contributions, sending motorcycle parts to assist learning, hiring technicians, and sending employees to GPRC for training. He’s also returned to tune up his own expertise.
The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes GPRC alumni for outstanding accomplishments in their professions, and/or in service to their community, society or GPRC. It serves as an example of alumni success for current and future GPRC students and is the most prestigious award of the GPRC Alumni/Foundation.
Graf took on the dealership with his father, Carmen.
“I told him one thing I need to do is to learn how to fix motorcycles and know the products so I’m not having people pull the wool over my eyes.”
Graf’s training in Fairview included the six-month motorcycle program followed by the first 12 week Harley-Davidson® program.
The courses were just what Graf was hoping for when he enrolled.
“Everything was hands on. It helped me think about how a motorcycle operates and what makes it run as well as the proper techniques for taking things apart, putting them back together again and the correct tools to use.
“It helped me to be a better mechanic,” he says, noting that he’d worked in his Dad’s tire shop for several years.
Graf was glad to re-invest in the college.
“It was important to help ensure there are skilled people out in the workforce,” he says. “I was pleased to have a college that catered to the motorcycle industry.”
Graf was thrilled to learn he’s receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award.
“I feel pretty honoured,” he says. “I didn’t know what to say. I’m pretty overwhelmed.”
Helping customers find their ride ranks as Graf’s number one highlight of owning the motorcycle shop for more than three decades.
“The biggest thing was the people. All these people have a love for motorcycling and I was able to bring that together.”
Hitting the road to check out new products was another attraction.
“I was able to go to a lot of places in North America for dealer shows.”
When these events were held in Canada, Graf would ride motorcycles home from across the country.
As he shifts into retirement, Graf has some advice for new entrepreneurs.
“If you’re going to run your own business, you have to be hands on. You can’t sit at home and have someone run the business for you. You have to be down there and be into everything and know what’s going on – the whole process.
“I recommend to anyone with a passion for something to find a college or some kind of class that pertains to it and that will definitely help them out.”
Read more about the 2020 President's Award Luncheon here.