Our History


Our Story

The History of Barney's Motorcycle and Marine...

Barney's Motorcycle and Marine is a third-generation family business that has been in the industry for over 70 years!   It is one of the oldest and most respected dealerships in the powersports industry. In 1946, Barney and Rosalee Barclay borrowed $500 and opened their first shop selling Indian Motorcycles in Bloomington, Illinois. Being an Indian dealer during those early years wasn't "easy street," and the demise of the Indian factory in the early 1950's didn't make things any easier.  The business was moved to St. Petersburg, Florida in 1951, where Barney's of St. Pete still stands; only now, it's much bigger!  The Barney's family expanded and acquired a Brooksville location in 1998, and Barney's of Brandon was established in 1999.  In 2002, an addition to the Brandon store was completed, which nearly doubled the size of its building. In 2009, it was expanded again to add a personal watercraft showroom, in order to better serve the area's watersport enthusiasts. 
      Throughout the last seven decades, Barney's has been a dealer for many different brands of motorcycles; AJS, BMW, BSA, Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Lambretta Scooters, Norton, Triumph, and Zundapp, to name a few. Each Barney's generation of owners has grown up with a love of racing motorcycles, and has participated in and run race teams in professional road racing, and motocross divisions.  Today, Barney's Motorcycle and Marine has over 100 employees and proudly sells Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Can-Am,  and Sea-Doo at their Brandon location.  The business has also grown to be one of the largest boat and personal watercraft dealers in the southeast.
     We know what it takes to keep our customers satisfied, and we treat each one as part of the "Barney's Family".  Read below to see the history of Barney's through the decades, and visit the Barney's Museum at Barney's of St. Pete to see photos, old motorcycles and memorabilia from the last 70 years.
The 1940s

      The Barney’s story began over seventy years ago, with Harry “Barney” Barclay and his lovely wife, Rosalee. The young couple were born and raised in the Bloomington, Illinois area. Barney and his friends always had a love of riding motorcycles, and Barney had a natural gift for fixing them. Soon after meeting and marrying Barney, Rosalee became a motorcycle lover as well. During World War II, they had to work hard to make ends meet. They were both employed in defense work at the Chicago Bridge and Iron shipyard. Rosalee was one of three comptometer (early calculator) workers who did payroll for about 10,000 men and Barney worked in the shipyards... (click HERE to continue reading)       

The 1950s
 
       When the Barney Barclay family arrived in St. Petersburg in the early 1950s, things started falling into place. They found a former restaurant/bar to rent on Gandy Boulevard—then, a rural two-lane road—across from Derby Lane, where the current Barney’s of St. Pete still stands. The Barclays were enticed by the three buildings on site. Perfect for their expanding business.
     First, the former restaurant’s kitchen building was where Barney serviced the motorcycles. It had unscreened openings to the outside. If anyone was working after the sun went down, they were likely to get eaten up by the sand fleas and mosquitoes! Second, the old dining building area was transformed into the sales floor. Later, they added a patio and awnings for an outdoor display area. During Christmas, the ever-creative Rosalee built a huge wooden Christmas tree and put it out front to attract the holiday shoppers. Lastly, the old smokehouse building was used for storage. All of the buildings were old. One had a leaking roof and required a lot of maintenance, but the entrepreneurial couple was happy to be in their new location... (click HERE to continue reading)

The 1960s
 
       In the 1960’s, Barney and Rosalee solidified their roots in the Bay area and became owners, instead of renters, of the Gandy Boulevard location. The entire family was proud to promote the family business. Their daughters, Beverly and Barbara—both Northeast High School grads—were often seen zipping around town on their custom Zundapp motorcycles and were eye-catching with their matching outfits. Barbara also did some local racing. Barney customized her BSA motorcycle with special paint that looked really sharp. When the girls parked their Zundapps, Beverly was often seen riding her Bella scooter, and Barbara drove a 3-wheeled, German prototype vehicle, called a Sputnik, to school. Barney’s also sponsored a race team consisting of the following riders: Lowell Moore, Bob Gill, David Purvis, Dick Russell, Jack Shaefer, Bill Wendel, Eric Johnson and Ed Blanchard. Barney was a gifted mechanic and worked on their motorcycles. Most of the family’s weekends were spent at the local races talking with friends, helping riders, and promoting their store... (click HERE to continue reading)

The Racing Years
       When you come to Barney’s, you quickly realize that this is not a big box store, but a family business built out of a love of motorcycles and racing. With four generations of the family involved in almost all areas of racing, they don’t just “talk the talk,” but they have lived it and competed as amateurs and professionals in almost every level of motorcycle racing!
     When Barney and Rosalee Barclay founded Barney’s in 1946, their passion for the industry was the center of their existence. They sponsored many race teams over the years, organized races, and spent a lot of weekends attending races as a family pastime. As it’s been mentioned in previous articles, Barney loved working on motorcycles, and making them fast was his specialty. Rosalee also worked tirelessly behind the scenes with others to create events, including the first Florida Winter Am races.
     When Ray Hempstead joined the family business in 1961, and later married their daughter Beverly, he had been winning many local races. After helping the early Barney’s race team for many years, Barney focused his efforts on building faster engines for Ray’s motorcycles... (click HERE to continue reading) 

The 1970s
 
        The 1970s was a decade of many changes for both the entire motorcycle industry and Barney’s Motorcycle Sales. The most traumatic event occurred in 1970. Their beloved founder, Barney, had flown to New Jersey for mechanics’ training and while he was there, he died suddenly of a heart attack. He was only 52 years old. 
     The rest of the family had to pull together to keep the business going. His wife, Rosalee, son-in-law Ray and daughter Beverly kept the business on track. At the time, Ray had a professional racing career in which Barney played a significant part. He was able to continue racing for a few more years, but after placing second in the 1972 Daytona 200, Ray decided to focus more on running the business and he retired from racing that same year. However, as we mentioned in the last issue, he didn’t want to remove himself from the race scene completely and began helping others achieve their racing goals. He worked in the dealership during the day and began working on race bikes every night for riders that soon became part of The Barney’s Race Team... (click HERE to continue reading) 

The 1980s
 

      While the 1970s were some of the best years for the business, the 1980s rolled in with some difficult obstacles to overcome. At the time, Barney’s carried the Yamaha and BMW brands. Throughout the 1970s, motorcycle sales surged. By 1980, the motorcycle manufacturers decided that times were so good, they needed to build an abundance of motorcycles for the dealers to sell. As soon as they did, sales suddenly made a rapid decline. Dealerships, including Barney’s, spent the next three years trying to sell the 1980-1981 models they were left with. Their profit disappeared as the manufacturers continued to slash prices, just to move the inventory. Ray Hempstead remembers having to sell a Yamaha Virago XV 750 motorcycle for $1,999, when its original retail price was $3,999.
     While times were tough economically, they also became challenging within the family. The Barney’s race team was going strong... (click HERE to continue reading)

The 1990s
 
       The 1990s began for Barney’s with more exciting advancements in the motorcycle, ATV, and personal watercraft industries. Family members, Rosalee, Ray, Beverly and K.C. all played a part in managing various aspects of the business during this exciting decade of growth and expansion for Barney’s Motorcycle and Marine. Ray and Beverly’s son, Todd, had left the business to pursue a career in Computer Engineering, but it wasn’t going to keep him away from the family business forever.
     The decade began with Yamaha’s introduction of the WaveRunner III 650, the first 3-passenger personal watercraft (PWC.) It opened a new avenue of fun for families who wanted to all go for a ride together! Right after that, they introduced their first stand-up model for the solo, more athletic rider, called the Super Jet 650. Soon, members of the Barney’s family could be seen racing on Super Jets on... (click HERE
to continue reading)      

The Fire
 
       The year 2000 began strongly at all three locations of Barney’s Motorcycle and Marine. The Brandon location was expanding, the new Boat Showroom in St. Petersburg was full of new models, and the Brooksville store was growing! However, on June 25, 2000, tragedy came when lightning struck the electrical lines feeding into Barney’s of St Pete. A fire began, and while the family was celebrating K.C. Wood’s birthday nearby, they received a call that they needed to get to the store quickly. When they arrived, twelve fire trucks were battling the huge blaze, which was consuming the dealership that Barney and Rosalee Barclay established on Gandy Blvd. The managing partners of the family, Rosalee, Ray, Beverly and K.C. watched helplessly until 2:00am as the fire ravaged their family business. There was no saving the main building on Gandy Blvd., or anything in it. Suddenly, the family was faced with a decision; do they shut down the 54-year old business, or do they fight to re-build and keep going? The partners all sat down and talked about it, and overwhelmingly decided they were not going to let a fire... (click HERE to continue reading)

The 2000s
 
       Y2K brought about many new beginnings for Barney’s Motorcycle and Marine. It began with the devastating fire that destroyed Barney’s of St. Pete in June of 2000 (see last month’s story). However, tough times turned into new beginnings as the brand new, larger building of the family member’s dreams opened in 2002, and continues to be the flagship store.
     K.C. Wood, then manager of the Brandon location, oversaw a major expansion of the Barney’s of Brandon building, which started as the St. Pete store rebuild was ending. The existing structure doubled in size and increased the showroom space to accommodate the growing business in the eastern Tampa location.
     Back in 1983, Rosalee had retired from Barney’s and daughter Beverly, Ray Hempstead, and K.C. (Rosalee’s grandson) continued with the day to day operations. Rosalee saw the dream of the new St. Pete building come to life, but unfortunately passed away in 2003 after a short illness. She was so proud of how far the family business had come, since opening it with... (click  HERE to continue reading)

The 2010s
 

     In 2010, the third generation of family members continued to run all three stores. That year, the company was hit the hardest by the recession that started around 2007. Sales were the lowest they had been for a long, long time. But this was not the first low time in the company’s history. The family bonded together, and kept moving forward. K.C. Wood, president of the company, was managing Barney’s of St. Petersburg and Barney’s of Brooksville. His cousin, Todd Hempstead, was the general manager at Barney’s of Brandon, and in 2012, Ray Hempstead came out of retirement to assist with the management of Barney’s of Brooksville.
    Soon, the economy started to slowly gain traction again, and new products... (Click HERE to continue reading)