Van’s Harley Davidson Celebrates 50 Years in Business

Vandeline "Van" Valovic started Van’s Harley Davidson back in 1948, when his ice delivery business was doing poorly. Van converted the icehouse into a repair shop for motorcycles and bicycles, and the rest as they say is history.
Van Valovic was born on October 20th 1912. His mother just arrived into this country just months before aboard the Titanic. His father was still overseas serving in the military. Several years after arriving in America his father purchased a motorcycle, and since then Van has had motorcycles in his blood.
In 1935 Van started his ice business, which was located at the same spot that Van’s is today. Van would deliver the ice in his 1929 model A Ford to all the iceboxes in the neighborhood. The icehouse still stands today and is used for motorcycle storage, and he still has the model A. In 1939 Van purchased his first motorcycle, a ’37 Flathead. Van still has that too, it has been fully restored and is on permanent display at Van’s HD. In 1943 the ice business had to be put on hold because Van was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served as a machinist making firing pins for machine guns and then as a motorcycle messenger, aboard a Harley Davidson. I remember him telling me stories about how his superior officers were shocked that he made it back from behind the German enemy lines.
After returning to the U.S., the ice business was not doing to well. The country was coming out of the depression and technology had invented something called the refrigerator. The ice business melted away and the icehouse was converted into the motorcycle business. He started out selling and repairing motorcycles and bicycles, it was just enough to get by. Van knew he needed to promote his business to become more successful, so he began racing motorcycles all over the East Coast. Winning races wasn’t enough for Van, anybody could do that, he wanted to stand out. He began showing up at county fairs with his motorcycle, jumping over anything they put in front of him. He worked his way up to 18 motorcycles. He can tell you about that day like it was yesterday. I remember him telling me that on his warm-up lap the bike was only running on one cylinder and that third gear wide open wasn’t going to be enough this time. Then at the last second before the ramp he pealed off and did another lap. This time he approached the ramp in fourth gear – all out. The 12" ramp looked like a toothpick. Hitting the ramp at that speed sent him flying into the air. He said he was as high as the announcer in the tower was! With the height he got that day he could have jumped twice as many bikes. He was known throughout the land as "Dare Devil Van". Over the years he made several jumps, crashed through 2x4 walls of fire, and even a tunnel of fire! The tunnel of fire gave him a little bit of a scare though, and it was around then that he decided to promote the business in other ways. He started the Glove District Riders Motorcycle Club, who sponsored poker runs, gypsy tours, and other social events (maybe this is where Harley got the idea to start HOG). By the mid 1960’s motorcycling and Harley Davidson were growing at a phenomenal rate. Van’s little motorcycle and bicycle repair shop that started in a converted icehouse was in need of an expansion. In 1972 Van purchased the lot next door, and erected an 85’x40’ building that housed the showroom and the Parts Department. In 1975 the business was handed down to his two sons, Paul and Jim, today’s co-owners. In the years that followed, the business grew considerably. In 1989, they expanded the showroom, and added a more modern look. Harley Davidson still continued to grow throughout the 90’s, and Van’s outgrew their existing building again, and in 1996 they started construction on another addition, 65’x42’. This expansion was completed in the spring of 1997 and it made Van’s Harley Davidson the largest showroom in NYS, with a state-of-the-art Service Department, and increased storage capacity, all under one roof! Come on in and check out what history has made of us.