(Main picture, Donna Clare at Clare’s Cycle and Sports Ltd., in Fenwick, ON )
In case you didn’t know it, entrepreneurship is a team sport.
Success in business and life in general has been proven to be near impossible without the help, love and support of others. And in marriage, that means your spouse being your biggest cheerleader means a lot.
Donna Clare has been that woman behind her husband John for almost 59 years as a wife, a mother and his right hand woman since the inception of Clare’s Cycle and Sports in 1955.
But did she know what she was getting into? Not exactly at first.
“When I met him, I knew he had started a business, I knew he had motorcycles and stuff and he raced them, so I just kind of went along with it,” laughs Donna Clare as she reminisces from her office where she still works to this day on Hwy 20 in Fenwick.
Donna, who says she loves spending time at the family business says she wasn’t so sure at the beginning though.
“When it first got going there were lots of challenges…is it going to work we’d ask ourselves? John still worked as a plumber for Atlas Steels and this was just a part time job. But I remember one day he said to me in ‘65 do I get out of this and do motorcycles full time? And I said well, you can’t do 2 things so we decided he would do it full time. We lived upstairs, above the Original Clare’s Cycle on Hwy 20 with the kids and we wanted to spend time with them, so from there everything just really worked and now we are in the building with 23 additions on it!”
Below, Donna poses in front of Clare’s in the early days (1958) ...
It’s hard not to get a sense from Donna that her ability to go with the flow was a formidable character trait that made lots of things “work”. From that time she put off her Honeymoon for a week to hit the last of the Daytona Beach Races with her man to the day to day activities that became part of her role in supporting him in life and business.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a routine in my marriage,” says Donna. “It was always let’s go here, let’s do this and when it came to the business side of things it was always – Donna can you do this and Donna can you do that… and Donna did it!”
Banking , licensing, picking up parts, all with kids in tow were part of the day to day experience in the Clare household back then but that go get’em attitude led to lots of good things as the family pulled together through the years. It was not long Donna says before John got the Yamaha dealership and things started to really come together with no shortage of adventure.
“Oh he had Nortons, and Triumphs and he did pretty good with those, but when he took on Yamaha in ’64 he became the largest volume dealer in Canada by 65 and the next thing I knew he won a trip to Japan. After that we won about 5 more trips there and I got to join along and they were fantastic. It was amazing you know, people didn’t fly and travel like they do now and for 2 kids from around here to do that it was really something!”
The good stuff about being in the motorcycle biz still had a few rough edges back then though Donna adds, as motorcycle culture and particularly women on bikes was not the norm.
“In my day you did not do that. I got ostracized for sitting on the back for crying out loud.”
All that aside though, Donna is proud that not only Clare’s Cycle and Sports flourished but that the business blossomed around a good family life. Donna is also very proud of her children and grandchildren for embracing the business to this day that has expanded to include the successful Clare’s Harley Davidson of Niagara.
“It’s been hard work but you just get used to it. I did it. I support John the best I can and I enjoy it. It’s been a great and exciting life that’s provided us a good living.”
As for retiring, it doesn’t look like that will be in the cards any time soon. Both John and Donna still love putting time at Clare’s Cycle and Sports regularly .
A lot of work maybe, but also the secret to keeping young?
“Oh God yeah!” chuckles Donna, “I’m sure that’s got something to do with it!”
Below, John and Donna pose for a recent shot together, partners in life and business for over half a century with third generation family now involved in the company they built together.
Coming Up Soon at Clare’s
Don’t miss the action! Join CLARE’S HARLEY- DAVIDSON of NIAGARA this weekend on Saturday October 27th 8:00 AM – 4:00 pm for the Live Free(er) Open House 2019 Model Launch and special 10th Anniversary Event.
Showcasing the NEW 2019 Harley- Davidson® motorcycles, parts, accessories and merchandise.
Qualify to win great Prizes. Chili served from 11 a.m. – 1p.m. (or while supplies last.)
Select in stock Harley-Davidson® motorcycles available for test- rides. *valid motorcycle license required – weather permitting.
Shop Clare’s for great savings
Save 10% off regular priced parts, accessories & Motorclothes® Merchandise.
20% off regular priced leather jackets, chaps, vests & H-D® Footwear.
60% off Clearance Dealer T-shirts. * must have dealer logo & discount sticker to receive discount.
Up to 60% off select clearance parts & accessories.
40% off Clearance Motorclothes® Merchandise.
*Special offers not valid on motorcycles. Cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts. Subject to change. Some conditions may apply.
Valid October 27, 2018. Motorcycle test rides require valid motorcycle license, approved helmet and proper riding gear. Weather permitting.
A family owned business for over 60 years, CLARE’S Cycle & Sports Ltd. began as a small shop in Welland, Ontario, Canada in 1954 where John Clare was the sole proprietor and eventually moved to Fenwick where over the years it has grown to be the large and successful business that it is today.
Over the years CLARE’S has added many brands to the dealership. Currently, Clare’s supplies sales, service, parts and accessories to Harley-Davidson®, Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki & KTM lines lines to the dealership and in 2008 CLARE’S Harley-Davidson® of Niagara came into being at 590 York Rd Niagara on the Lake.
CLARE’S Cycle & Sports Ltd. & CLARE’S Harley-Davidson® of Niagara have established themselves as one of the premiere motorcycle dealers in Ontario.
CLARE’S Harley-Davidson® of Niagara
590 York Road
Niagara On The Lake, ON L0S1J0