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Yamaha store on its third generation

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Stan Johnson, left, and his son Keith operate Bobby J’s, the nation’s oldest Yamaha dealer. (Glen Rosales/For the Albuquerque Journal)

Stan Johnson, left, and his son Keith operate Bobby J’s, the nation’s oldest Yamaha dealer. (Glen Rosales/For the Albuquerque Journal)

When Bobby J’s first began selling Yamaha motorcycles, the Japanese company didn’t even have an office in the United States.

“They would just have someone come around and say, ‘I have some of these motorcycles to sell,’” recalled Stan Johnson, son of the original owner.

So a couple of the upstart motorcycles went into the showroom, then a couple more.

And by 1958 it became known as Bobby J’s Yamaha, leaving it the oldest Yamaha dealer in the United States.

Even more improbably, it’s celebrating its 50th anniversary at its current location on Menaul NE between Carlisle and San Mateo. It speaks to customer relations that was the heart of the business from the beginning, Johnson said.

“The way he ran the business, he always took care of the customer,” Johnson said. “He always said, ‘Don’t gouge the customer. Don’t do that.’ If you get them buried in something so deep, they’ll never get out. And if they do, they won’t buy from you again because they’ll be mad at you.”

But Johnson said he frequently sees customers today that he first sold motorcycles to in the 1970s.

His father has been essentially out of the business for more than 15 years, Johnson has some help in son Keith Johnson, who returned to Albuquerque in the mid-2000s after close to a dozen years on the professional motorcycle circuit.

“I was always infatuated with motorcycles, but I just wanted to ride,” Keith Johnson said. “I was fortunate to be able to do that professionally and there were a lot of good, fast riders in Albuquerque then. My brother (Kevin) and I happened to make it at the professional level. It was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work. It was a lot of training and lot of traveling.”

About five years ago, Keith Johnson came on board full time “and it turns out I’m pretty good at it. That’s what dad tells me, anyway.”

As a younger man, it’s not what he really saw himself doing, “but it was the right thing to do to be back in Albuquerque,” he said. “It’s worked out really good in the end.”

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