Riding On Two Wheels

Tom Leighton keeps Motorcycles Period successful by following the three H’s: honest, humble and hard-working

Tom Leighton
Owner of Motorcycles Period

Tell us about your business. At Motorcycles Period, I sell alternative transportation in the form of motorcycles, ATVs or scooters, and offer service, parts and accessories. On Aug. 25 I marked 30 years in this industry on Kaua’i, having had two different stores. That date also was my second anniversary of this store.

I once had five major franchises and a ton of work dealing with all the corporations, but with this establishment, I wanted to simplify my life. I’m a dealer for one franchise only, KYMKO, the seventh-largest two-wheel manufacturer in the world. I was the first to bring them into Hawaii and now every island has a dealer. I’m the only KYMKO dealer on Kaua’i.

I own seven motorcycles. I was lucky enough, as my father said, to make my avocation my vocation.

I have two employees: Cherelle Carvalho is our parts manager and second in command; Mark Javalana is our service technician.

Where did you grow up and what school did you attend? I grew up in Venice Beach, Calif., and I graduated from Venice High School. I went to Santa Monica City College where I took classes in business management.

Also, I am a fully Honda-certified service technician; a BMW-certified technician, and I hold a state mechanic’s license, a state safety inspector’s license – that covers cars, motorcycles, trucks and buses – and I hold a state motor vehicle dealer’s license, which means I could sell cars out of here if I wanted to. I don’t want to.

How did you get started in this business? A man I knew asked me if I wanted to work in a motorcycle parts department at Honda. I drove a Honda motorcycle. I didn’t know anything about the parts. Three months later, the place made me the parts manager. That was my start, and I haven’t done anything else but work in and own motorcycle dealerships since then.

What sets your business apart? Our focus is on inexpensive, alternate transportation, but my claim to fame is that I am the scooter king of Kaua’i. I have seven different models of mo-peds and eight different models of scooters. Mopeds by law are allowed to travel up to 30 mph, but most people will try to upgrade them to travel at 40 mph. Scooters, on the other hand, average from 60 to 70 mph.

Why do you do what you do? I have absolutely just an inborn passion for two-wheeled vehicles. I’ve used them for transportation to go to school and work, but I also have done high speed, off-road desert racing, motocross, enduros – off road with obstacles and challenges – trials, 150-mph track racing and more, so I’ve competed in almost every form of motorcycle competition that exists.

Do you have a motto or philosophy for doing business? To be successful in business on the island of Kaua’i, you must follow the three H’s – honest, humble and hard-working – and you’ll earn the respect of the local people.

My personal motto coming from my racing background is “Broken bones heal, girls dig scars, glory is everything and pain is our only constant friend.” That’s dirt bike riding on Kaua’i.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business?

The government.

Leighton with parts manager Cherelle Carvalho and son, and service technician Mark Javalana

What do you find rewarding about this business? Without a doubt, it’s the two-wheel family that I’ve become attached to over a 30-year period. I’m into my third generation of riders and customers, and they are my ohana. They have “hanai’d” me and guided me and mentored me.

How do you measure success? By my longevity on Kaua’i. There have been 17 other attempted dealerships that have come and gone since I’ve been here – it’s the 3 H’s again.

What are your plans for the future? My ultimate goal before I die is to bring two-wheel rechargeable solar cycles to Kaua’i. On a worldwide basis, it makes sense. There are huge, growing markets in China and Africa where gasoline is not readily available but the sun is.

With a collapsible, renewable solar panel under the seat, while you’re sitting at work, God’s recharging your moped.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? I’d be the owner of my own business in sales. I could sell refrigerators to Eskimos.

Tom Leighton, owner, Motorcycles Period, 1586 Haleukana, Puhi Industrial Park, Lihue. 632-0000, tom@motorcycles.com.

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