Within Dave Lipinski’s cubicle at Powersports Northwest hang jerseys with the business’s old name — Suzuki Northwest — embroidered on them.
Those were the early days, as he recalls.
Sometimes, when customers come into his office, they’ll often comment on the jerseys: “I remember when they used to be here,” one recently said. As Lipinski puts it, he brought the jerseys in just “for the nostalgia” of it all.
For customers, some having bought from Lipinski for many years now, that nostalgia can sometimes hit home. It does for Lipinski.
“When we started, there was just the two of us working, and now there’s about 20 of us working. But that’s over 40 years, and we have thousands of thousands of customers that we’ve gotten to know,” Lipinski said over the phone recently. “We’re going to miss our customers and it’s hard to walk away. It’s in our blood and it’s hard to stop.”
Roughly four decades ago, Lipinski and his business partner, Jeff Ashe, bought what was then Steve’s Suzuki from the Rassmusson family. This last month, the duo handed off the same business with a new name to another family — the Hubberts.
The Aug. 1 sale marks the end of an era for two local motorsport enthusiasts, but a new one for a local family keen to continue the business’s track record of ambition.
Jonathan Hubbert, the new president of Powersports Northwest, said the goal is to bring “new energy” into the dealership while building upon the strong foundation and years of commitment Ashe and Lipinski have poured into it.
Powersports Northwest, located in downtown Centralia along Tower Avenue, currently buys, sells and finances motor and electric vehicles from Honda, Polaris, Suzuki and Yamaha.
“I’m excited to be back and owning a local business again. I think with the growing market here, and the big footprint that we have, I think the opportunity to expand and grow is very good here in Lewis County ... I’m very excited,” Hubbert said.
He and his sister were previously the fourth-generation owners of Tires Incorporated, which did business in Chehalis and Olympia. It had commercial facilities, a retread plant and retail departments before its sale in 2019 to Bridgestone Corporation. Hubbert went on to work as a sales manager for GCR Tires and Services before purchasing the beloved Centralia business.
Lipinski, now 65, “of retiring age,” said he and Ashe had talked about selling the company for a couple years now, but really took it into heavy consideration after discussions struck with Hubbert. Things have gone pretty smoothly since the changeover, he said.
“It’s been a month and a half now, and we’re still working through the details … It’s going pretty well,” Lipinski said.
He said he plans on staying on part time for the next year to help iron out the rest of the transition, but after that his plans are unknown. Ashe, Lipinski said, will hang around, too.
“We didn’t get along (on) every single thing, but generally we both wanted to see the store succeed in our own way,” Lipinski said.
The story of modern-day Powersports Norwest — as well as the timeline of Ashe and Lipinski’s time with the company — began way back in June 1972.
As a spry 16-year-old, Lipinski was hired on as an apprentice mechanic at the Rassmusson-owned Steve’s Suzuki, a small dealership that sold Suzuki motor vehicles and only had a handful of employees, the company’s biography reads.
A couple years later, Ashe was hired on to the same role as Lipinski. Both young men — infatuated with offroad motorbikes and motorcycles — learned to work in several departments of the store during those early years.
Outside of work, the duo even joined a local bike club.
“We joined a local club called the Centralia Mudslingers, which was actually started in the 60s. We were young and in our late teens, early 20s, and provided a little spark to it … (The club) put races on outside of Rochester for 35 years,” Lipinski said. “It was a big promotion for our store and was really in our blood.”
In 1977, Steve Rasmusson was ready to change careers. After considering owners, he eventually struck a deal with the two young employees, who changed the name soon after to Suzuki Northwest.
The dealership acquired its Yamaha franchise from Yard Birds Shopping Center in 1979 and opened a new facility in Centralia. The two facilities would later be consolidated into Suzuki-Yamaha Northwest. The business again underwent a name change after purchasing its Honda franchise in 1979.
Finally, in 1991, Ashe and Lipinski purchased their final home on Tower Avenue before renaming the company one final time to Powersports Northwest in 1992.
“For the most part, it’s for fun and family enjoyment. People like coming here because it’s their hobby, and we cater to that. And, if you treat people fairly, you have lots of repeat customers,” Lipinski said.
Lipinski said he’d spend most of his time in the sales and office side of the dealership and Ashe would spend most of his expertise in the parts and servicing area. While the two wouldn’t always agree on certain things, they’d always work together as partners for the betterment of the dealership.
“We bought ourselves a job, is the best way to put it. And we kind of just kept working,” Lipinski said. “We enjoyed what we did, the hard work. But you reap what you sow.”
Hubbert said they have ambitious plans for the dealership moving forward. They plan on adding a 5,000 square-foot showroom floor in the coming months, and they’re inviting customers — old and new — to come visit them in the process and to continue to shop locally.
“We’re spending a lot of time going through our prices to make sure we’re staying competitive” with the big box stores, Hubbert said.
Powersports Northwest is located at 300 South Tower Ave. in Centralia. It’s open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and is closed Sunday and Monday. The business can be reached at 360-736-0166.