There’s no doubt that Factory Connection has a good thing going in suspension, as the results of the Amsoil/Chaparral/Factory Connection/Honda have been proving. There’s Travis Preston’s 125cc West Supercross title, Mike LaRocco’s U.S. Open win, and Chris Gosselaar’s win during the first night of 125cc action at this year’s U.S. Open. Oh, and you can’t forget Kevin Windham’s results aboard his FC-equipped bike this year.
But while their main headquarters remains in Rochester, New Hampshire, they’ve also opened a new shop for their West Coast customers in Corona, CA. “We’ve been working out here setting this up for about a month-and-a-half,” said Factory Connection’s Peter Paige, who heads up the new shop. “Ziggy (Factory Connection’s Rick Zielfelder) asked if it was something I’d be interested in, and I jumped on it. I learned everything I know about suspension from Ziggy and Tim Street and Zach. They took me under their wing and treated me like a brother.”
Richard Sawitskas is also among the crew in place in Corona. “I originally started doing suspension with White Brothers in the early 90s. Later I got hired on at KTM, and KTM took over WP as their suspension supplier, so I became the aftermarket import manager for the WP products. When I found out they were opening this shop, I was extremely interested. It was an opportunity to be in with something starting from the ground up.”
Peter had a quick answer when quizzed about the purpose of their satellite facility. “While Factory Connection is based back in New Hampshire, a lot of our customer base is out here. The capitol of the industry out here, plus we do a lot of our own team stuff, and the race shop is nearby. It may be the off-season, but they’re busy testing for ’04.”
The shop’s proximity to Honda’s test track doesn’t hurt. “Having the shop out here saves money and time in shipping, plus it’s a lot easier for our team. They can just drop it off, and pick it up in another day or two.”
The workload hasn’t been too severe since they opened for business in Corona a few weeks ago. “Right now it’s word of mouth, and the internet. Once word gets out, I think we’ll get slammed, but we’ll be able to handle 15 or 16 sets a day.”
The next question for Peter? What does Factory Connection do that’s different from everyone else? “One of the things we try to excel on is our customer relationships. We think that if we treat them really well, they’ll want to come back and refer other customers. They feel like we’re not just taking their money. We’re here with info if they’re struggling in setting their bike up. We try to be there for them.
The bulk of customer service is still handled through the New Hampshire offices. “Say someone walked in today with some suspension. We’d fill out what we call a profile sheet. On it is all your info¿ability, what you’re doing with your bike, the bike’s brand and model, and what you’re trying to achieve. We’ll take all that info down, and fax it back to those guys. They read it over, and come up with a spec and send it back. They take all the phone calls on the 800 number back there, and send the paperwork back here. It keeps everyone together. It’s not like they don’t know what’s going on, and we don’t know what they’re doing.”
Something that Peter wanted to stress was that while the office is far-removed from New Hampshire, they still have close ties to the mother ship. “It’s not a franchise. We’re still Factory Connection, and we have three locations now.” (Including their newest location in Quebec, Canada.) “We’re all Factory Connection employees. We’re just spread out. With us, everybody knows what’s going on, whether it’s here, Canada, or back east. We’re all tied in to the same loop, and the quality is more consistent that way.”
“Also, each customer gets the same quality. I do a shock the same way for Mike LaRocco as I would for some guy who just walks in off the street. The same oil that we put in for our race team guys goes into the customer’s suspension components.”
“The other thing you’ll notice is that we try to keep the place spotless. You can’t do good work if you’re stepping on stuff and having to move things to do a job.”
How about future plans? Will they be expanding to do things like race support? “Once we get this rolling, it’s in the future. We’re looking forward to that. We want to eventually get a program together to do all the amateur nationals. It’s huge when you’re there to promote your business, and also take care of your customers.”
Factory Connection West
1701 Rimpau Ave., Unit 104
Corona, CA 92881