In the December '03 issue of Dirt Wheels we published an edited interview with the owner of Alba, Cory Hove. By popular demand we are now posting the interview in its entirety. Enjoy!
1. Tell us about yourself, and what is your position at Alba? How old are you, where are you from, etc?
I grew up in the High Dessert in Apple Valley and was into motorcycles from an early age. At the time, Apple Valley was wide open and you could pretty much ride anywhere, and I did. I didn't race, but rode all over the desert all the time. I've pretty much owned some form of an off-road bike all my life. I was big into motorcycles, then moved into three-wheelers in the early eighties, butI was hooked on quads from the first time I rode one. I thought they weremore fun than three wheelers, and felt that four wheelers were a lot saferfor my kids. It was how they both learned how to ride. Still today, I havethe most fun when I hang out at the dunes with my family and friends.I have owned a couple of other businesses, but my passion was quads - Ibasically worked to fuel my ATV habit. Some people accuse me of purchasingALBA so that I could get a better deal on vehicles and accessories, whichmay be true. But I kind of figured I may as well work in a field that I enjoy, so I do.
2. How long have you been at Alba?
I purchased Alba in 1991 and have been the owner operator ever since.
3. What is Alba's history and story?
Like most dealerships, Alba has moved around several times and has carried most brands. But here are a couple of landmark turning points. We're often asked where the name ALBA comes from, and it's actually kind-of interesting. When the dealership was founded in the mid eighties, the owners also owned Balboa Datsun - when they were tearing down the sign, the wrecking ball swung and left the letters ALB and A. They thought that sounded pretty cool, so they kept the name ALBA.
The biggest turning point however was in 1986 with the introduction of the Alba Banshee, which was first exposed in the January 1996 Dirt Wheels. The Banshee was a great quad that included a bunch of hidden performance that was fairly easy to unleash. We figured out that we could squeeze out a bunch more performance without having to charge more for it. And, to set it off, we included a cool, custom designed Alba graphics kit.
The response was terrific, and the Alba Banshee was a huge hit. This "All included" concept is what really set Alba apart from the rest of the other dealers and gave us a name in the quad business. To make all of these performance mods cost effective, we began manufacturing our own Alba branded performance parts. This helped us keep our cost down and helped to really launch our ATV Parts & Accessories business. Now we have over 300 ALBA manufactured ATV parts and accessories and offer well over 1000 ATV specific parts and accessories available on our web site, albaaction.com.
I guess we're just entering our next chapter, and that's with our HUGE new dealership location in Poway - and with the addition of Honda and Kawasaki to our major product mix. This will provide customers with even more choices and allow us to offer even more parts and accessories in a cool new showroom.
4. What is Alba's focus?
Customer Fun. That may sound contrived, but it's really the truth. We're in the business of fun. We all work here because we love it. Because we ride all the time, we understand the lure of riding, and think that comes across to our customers. We understand why you may want an extra 10 horsepower or why having the most chrome at the dunes is important. We also know the difference between "buying a quad" and "getting the necessary toys to have a fun time on the weekend - and to go faster than your buddy.
5. Will Alba get into chassis building?
Probably not. We think it makes more sense to focus on making commercially available products better through modifications and accessories.
6. What is Alba's key to the success it has had? How does it keep customers happy?
Keeping customers happy IS the key to success. We understand that every customer has choices when shopping, we hope that their experience when dealing with any part of Alba makes them want to come back. That coupled with the basic good business practices of fair prices, excellent selection, honesty and providing customers with all the information they need to make the right decision, is our key to success. And perhaps, most importantly, we know that the sale doesn't end when the customer leaves the store. We have always tried to do our best at after sales support.
7. Do you do in-house repair and shop work or is it only parts sales and fully-decked quads?
In house repairs and performance mods have always been a big part of our business. And, with our new dealership, we'll have one of the most sophisticated repair centers around. We've even spun-off our own Race Performance Engineering group which is dedicated to high performance motors for our race team and customers who want a competitive edge.
8. What is the present state of the ATV industry? Going up, going down?
I believe the ATV industry is booming right now and will continue to expand as more and more people experience it. Eventually, like all things, growth will level off, but I don't see that happening for a while. Fortunately, the manufacturers keep making better products, which is a great way to fuel interest.
9. Who do you sponsor?
Our major sponsors are Kory Ellis in the GNC, Traci Cecco in Women's GNCC, Wayne Matlock, Steve Beilman, Greg Row, Alex Crosthwait in BITD and SCORE. We also sponsor an amateur Motocross team and a variety of other regional riders.
10. What parts or packages are most popular amongst Alba customers?
Our "all included" Team Alba quads are probably the most popular. When customers shop around, then come to Alba and realize that they can get a quad with a pipe kit, K&N air filter, outerwear and adaptor, properly tuned jetting, new TAG Metals bars and grips, and a cool custom graphics kit for about the same price as a stock one at other dealers, they can't believe it. As far as parts go, our pipe kits are probably the most popular, because they score about the same numbers as many other performance kits, but cost around $100 less. Our A-Arms are also pretty popular for the same reason.
11. With the advent of the YFZ450 and TRX450R, will racing become more popular, or do you think these are aimed at casual sport and dunes riders?
Quad racing will become more popular, not necessarily because of these quads, but because of timing and exposure. With the quad stadium races after the supercross, people were really excited about quad racing. It's also beginning to get more television coverage, which will really help the sport. That being said, the new Honda and Yamaha quads will definitely make it easier for more people to jump quickly into racing.
12. Will there be Alba-modified YFZ450 and TRX450R quads available? What mods will they get?
We'll definitely have Alba YFZs and TRXs available soon. We want to make sure our mods actually help the quads, so it will be a while before we are done testing and they become available to the general public. But you can probably count on our Alba quads including a combination of intake and exhaust enhancement and graphics and maybe a few other goodies.
13. Where do you want Alba to be in three-to-five years?
In the exact same place - I don't want to go through another move any time soon! Ok, I know that's not what you meant. I would like to see Alba continue to grow as a dealership, while maintaining a high standard of customer service. Getting big is one thing, getting big while still providing personalized service, is quite another thing.
14. Do you do a lot of riding? What kind? How about your employees?
Not as much as I would like to or as I used to, but I make it a point to go out at least once a month for a weekend in the dunes, or for trail riding, I like to head to Mexico. Anything else is a bonus. Alba employees ride often. Almost every time I'm out in the dunes, I run into someone from Alba. There probably isn't a weekend during riding season that there aren't at least a half-dozen Alba employees out riding. And it really shows when they are talking to customers. The enthusiasm they express is real; it comes from their personal riding experience.
15. Should there be more west coast Nationals? Can the west support ATV racing like the east coast?
We've got the tracks in place - some of the best in the country. We've got the talent. We just need someone to organize and, more importantly promote the whole thing - and we would have one of the best quad racing series in the world.
16. What's the best part of working at Alba?
I look forward to coming to work every day. The people are great and a pleasure to work with, and there is always some interesting challenge. Also, it's pretty cool to get a first look at new quads, and trick parts and accessories. That's definitely a perk.
17. If you could meet anyone from history, past or present, who would it be?
Winston Churchill because he was a great statesman who, it seems, was able to get almost anything resolved, and could get almost any group to come to consensus. Then, perhaps, he could give me advice on how we can resolve these environmental issues that are having such a huge impact on our sport
18. How many machines is Alba working on at any given time? Do you have a warehouse full of quads waiting to be decked out in Alba parts? What's a typical day at Alba like?
Controlled Chaos. Probably now isn't a good time to ask, given our big relocation and the expansion of our dealership. But Alba is constant energy. From parts, to sales, our service department to our management team, everyone is in motion all the time. I'm amazed at how much we can actually accomplish in a day. As far as quads, we have the equivalent of what looks like an ATV graveyard in the back. From dead quads, like Kory Ellis's 2001 Cannondale race bike, to quads just waiting for service – we must have around 100 vehicles in various state of repair at any one time.
19. What is your all time top three favorites ATVs?
Suzuki LT250R with a Honda Motor; My Banshee - which was the quad that Doug Eichner won three national championships for Alba on, and the new Yamaha YFZ450.
20. Any last words to the public?
First and foremost, don't forget our sport is about having fun. Second, if you don't get involved and support efforts to keep our riding areas open, soon there won't be any! Don't be complacent, don't expect that someone else will deal with the problem, you're involvement can make a difference. Finally, on a personal note, it is very important to me that our customers have a great experience when dealing with Alba. I want them to know that I'm always available to help if there is a problem - and they shouldn't hesitate to call or email me.