Senior staff writer
The Schulteti family, founders of Southside Harley-Davidson, represents a walking and talking history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
The business was founded by the late George Schulteti, who moved his family from Milwaukee to Indianapolis in 1947. He started the enterprise at 701 S. Meridian St., where his family lived in an upstairs apartment.
The company is now owned by George’s son, Bob, and wife Anita with third- and fourth-generations among administrators and employees.
He speaks lovingly of his parents.
‘He’s the one who instilled all our habits, abilities, dreams and desires – it all started with Mom and Dad,” Bob Schulteti said. “I’m definitely proud of what we have here.”
The Schultetis have seen the revitalized motorcycle industry go from a necessity to recreation.
“The growth has been tremendous,” he said. “When we started in 1947 there were fewer riders; motorcycles were a mode of necessary transportation for our customers. As time went by, motorcycle riding became very popular, especially Harley-Davidson, as a form of touring and recreation. For us the Harley-Davidson touring bikes represent that trend.
The move from South Meridian to its current location at Southport Road and I-65 came in 1998.
This year marks the business’s 70th anniversary, and it comes with a historic display at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St. A 1947 model and a 2017 model are in the main lobby and beckon visitors to the fourth floor for “The Harley Shop: Seventy Years of Southside Harley-Davidson.”
Seven significant models from a 1949 restored Model S identical to the first bike that Bob Schulteti owned to a 2002 are displayed. The circular wall is lined with photographs and memorabilia from the company’s 70-year history, including a poignant letter from George Schulteti to Bob Schulteti, who at the time was in the Army at Fort Campbell.
Bob was a flat-track rider who won the Indiana Hare and Hound Championship in 1955 with a lightweight Harley-Davidson. His riding boots are on display. Video monitors on the fourth floor show footage of Schulteti in action on the track.
Patrons may visit the display through Sept. 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; museum admission: $9 adults, $8 for seniors 60 years and older, $5 for ages 5 to 17 years and free for children under 5.
The display came about through the dealership’s annual sponsorship of a Christmas tree at the museum, whose administrators were aware of Southside Harley-Davidson’s 70th anniversary.
“There will be a lot of people who see the displays that have no idea that any business could survive in the motorcycle industry for 70 years,” Bob Schulteti said. “The riders have changed; now they include doctors and lawyers, professional people.”
The Schulteti family, their employees, friends and guests were on hand Friday for a VIP preview of the display.
“This is a wonderful American and Hoosier story, promoting the iconic Harley-Davidson band,” said Indiana History Society President and CEO John A. Herbst, who revealed that he had been a neighbor of the business on South Meridian Street. “The Schultetis were a wonderful family and great neighbors.”
The Schultetis said they are proud that they were the original sponsor of the Miracle Ride for Riley Children; the 25th annual ride is next year.
Bob had his first ride on a motorcycle when he was only 2 weeks old. He turned 84 July 14, making the display a belated birthday present and a gift to history center patrons.
Memorabilia at the dealership features motorcycles and engines from past decades, a replica of the front of the original dyno room on South Meridian, a wood carving of a 1968 Harley-Davidson, paintings of each decade of the bikes and several photos of fourth-generation Harley-Davidson owners.
With an emphasis on safety, Schulteti said land has been obtained in Johnson County for a permanent training course and eventually a classroom building. Riding and safety classes are held near Post Road and I-74.
Also of interest to Southsiders, the Italian P.O.W. Chapel at Camp Atterbury with re-enactors is on the second floor. Retired Col. Jorg Stachel was camp commander when the original chapel was restored.
The displays are a reminder of the Southside’s proud history and impact on Indiana.