Forming and history of H.O.G. Lipa Chapter Slovenija

By the end of 1988 the Industriaimport Company from Ljubljana started the first dealership of the Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Yugoslavia after WW2. From reasons unknown to us, the sale was unsuccessful. In the Yugoslavia there was less than dozen Harleys sold. I believe four of them were in Slovenia. After less than three years the sale ceased completely. Because of that, Industriaimport didn't establish a chapter.

In the 1995, the Motoklub Company from Ljubljana successfully arranged the Harley-Davidson dealership for the area of by then ex-Yugoslavia. The sales grew fast. Škulj Slavko an architect from Ljubljana, also a great lover of “nostalgic” motorcycling and an expert in the field also knew about H.O.G. and chapters. Because he owned his eighty-inch since 1990, he was persistently trying to persuade Motoklub to form a chapter. Because Motoklub had no ears for the idea at the time being, Škulj was increasing the pressure by bringing me into the game. I was riding my eighty-inch since 1989. So we were persuading. Of course Motoklub was always busy, but nevertheless one day they brought a big black folder with the “H.O.G.” writing on it and gave it to me saying: “Here! Make your Chapter.”

I started with all possible methods of searching Slovenian owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Everybody helped and always notified me of other Harley riders they knew about. The phone book browsing and calling all the peoples followed. I.e.: “Hello? Mister with the same name as you owns a Harley. We're establishing the owners club and we'd like to contact him. Perhaps you know him.” Sometimes people answered in mistrust, sometimes joy. So I tracked them down, every 23 of them. Of course some of them left their addresses at Motoklub, since they've heard about new the shop.

Meanwhile I have had the H.O.G. folder translated. The Motoklub came from a meeting with their regional office and all of the sudden they were in a hurry to establish a chapter. They found out, this is the dealer’s job and that people at the Harley-Davidson takes this very, very seriously.

Signatures of Founding MembersSo we got started: the first ride, the second ride, establishing meeting, officers meetings, another ride and a new-years party.

Before we started, we had to make the entire things official. We had the sponsoring dealer; we all made us members of H.O.G. It was a month procedure. After that I filled in all the forms and lists and sent them to H.O.G. Europe Office. We faxed a bit and had some troubles with the chapter’s name. We've chosen the “Chapter Slovenia”, they said no. They explained the name has to have also something more like a name of the city, hill, river, etc. We explained the Slovenia is small. They understood it and forwarded our case to Milwaukee. But Milwaukee started the “city, hill, river” explanation all over again. The identity crisis went on for months.

We had no choice, but to come up with the new name. On the meetings we were searching for a new name furiously: Ilirija, Karantanija, etc. Finally the “Lipa” prevailed. “Lipa” is a Slovenian word for a lime tree, the tree under which the generations of Slovenians were gathering. The name is also short, easy to remember and distinguishable to the foreigners. Somebody remarked Lipa is also a Croatian currency, but we didn't care much. On the proposal I sent to Europe Office and later to Milwaukee, I wrote that Lipa is a very famous hill here and adds a very recognizable feature to our chapter’s district. And they were happy, we followed the “city, hill, river” principle.

Europe Office FaxOn March 26th 1996 I received fax from Mr. Kalkstein, proudly stating that “LIPA CHAPTER SLOVENIJA” was approved by Milwaukee and that our chapter number is 9379.

Nevertheless Lipa Chapter Slovenija claims the founding date September 14th 1995, justified by the fact that this day almost all Harley riders gathered for a founding meeting at “Gostilna pri Žabarju” inn. Harley-Davidson recognizes the date of the founding meeting as the founding date as well.

Next we were able to order our patches. Dealer can order Patches only, but they didn't show any interest. I was so enthusiastic; I ordered and paid the shipment myself. So the Motoklub was offended again, when I popped in at the store and told them the customs wouldn't let me import the shipment. We signed a deed of assignment, Motoklub paid, what the government wanted and we were looking for needle-men and needle-women keenly. Some bothered their wives, so that they had their fingers all bloody, from sewing the patches on the thick leather.

In the years 1996 and 1997 Motoklub threatened they will suspend the chapter, excusing that Harley-Davidson advised them that. They stated that the members are not... I can't remember the statements anymore. We'll never know the truth, what Harley-Davidson was explained about us. But things always calmed down.

In October 2001 the H-D and H.O.G. representatives invited me to a discrete breakfast meeting at Grand Hotel Union in Ljubljana. They announced discontinuance of cooperation with Motoklub in confidence. At the same time they asked me to continue to lead the chapter at least until a new sponsoring dealer becomes known. The fact the chapter is staying was of course joyful to me and I promised to keep calmly operating without making any scenes.

Motokluba's Final LetterSo Lipa Chapter continued its activities and the Motoklub announced that because of the lack of interest, introduction of VAT and 9/11 they are ceasing the Harley-Davidson dealership on October 2002. They also invalidated both official autonomous service shops and denounced all the warranty claims. But in the same letter they offered to serve the Harley-Davidson motorcycles and accessories orders and announced the winding-up sale of all their stocks, regardless the Harley-Davidson demand to return the stock.

Regardless the Motoklub allusions, that Lipa Chapter can't exist without Motoklub, we didn't react and calmly continued with chapter activities. H.O.G. Europe Office also provided us with the note, no chapter has ever been suspended yet.

In February 2003 I got email that things got started again and the discussion about the new sponsoring dealer has started. Indeed the Claas Company took over the dealership for Slovenia.

The most thorough review of chapter activities, meetings and rides of Lipa Chapter Slovenia is available as the list of chapter events.
And some statistics from autumn 1995 until the end of 2007:

  • Our database has grown to 361 addresses of active and ex-owners of 319 Harleys. It is estimated that less than one sixth of the owners sells their motorcycle or otherwise leave the brand.
  • We sent 22,959 mails and 5,299 forms, inviting our members to our meetings, events, etc.
  • Our management had 34 different officers, usually eight to ten at a time. We had 95 officer meetings with 593 presences (71.5%). 829 minutes has been sent and we organized 142 events, mostly rides.
  • We collected €18,324.79 substituting “membership fees”. For the last few years, around 100 members pay the membership fee each year, and around 50-70 additional members are still considered active. The list of the active members is updated regularly, because of joining and leaving members. Every now and then, we remove from the list the members, who have not paid their membership fee and ignored the chapter in general for years. Some invitations bounce as “Invalid Address” occasionally.
  • After 2003, the Lipa Chapter Slovenija felt at ease. We introduced the charity donations to the CERPHCA replacing the membership fee. The raised funds are spent for the handicapped children’s accessories. We raised €15,170.53 this way. We raised additional €8,318.00 on charity auctions from 2004 on, and €12,520.00 on the “Who wants to be a millionaire” show also.

Ride safe!

Rastko Korošec
Director of H.O.G. Lipa Chapter Slovenija

Translated by Simon Rozman