Guy Johnson discovered the new location for his Lewiston Orchards motor sports store when he was buying ammunition at Black Sheep Sporting Goods.

As Johnson waited to make his purchase, he realized the building had plenty of room for him to expand Guys Outdoor Motorsports and Marine. It took him minutes to lay out the basic plan for the renovation that will likely be ready at the end of September.

A major asset of the former Black Sheep site is its position at one of the busiest intersections in Lewiston, at Main Street and Levee Bypass.

“It’s set up right,” Johnson said. “It’s exactly where it needs to be.”

His goal is to increase sales by improving the experience for customers shopping for motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, boats and utility task vehicles, also called side by sides.

Guys Outdoor only has eight parking spaces at its Lewiston Orchards location, where the main building is 7,300 square feet. Downtown, it will have 41 parking spaces in a lot on the east side that is being paved and 21,000 square feet in the largest building on the property.

The additional space will allow Johnson to display one model of every new machine he sells in a heated and air conditioned showroom that gets plenty of natural sunlight. Used models will be displayed outside during the day and secured at night. Previously some of the new inventory was outside, so customers might have to stand in the rain or hot sun while they browsed.

The upgrade is possible because the demand for the products he carries from manufacturers such as Polaris, Arctic Cat, Thunder Jet and Husqvarna is strong, usually exceeding his expectations, Johnson said.

Typically a family or a couple starts out small, maybe with one all-terrain vehicle. Then they’ll be in the next year to buy another one so they can include more people in their outings. A few years later, they’re back, either to buy a new product or to upgrade because they have a better idea of the features they want, even if it’s as superficial as a different color.

“We have customers we have sold 10 or 12 units to,” he said.

He will also be expanding the clothing department to carry gear for winter, spring, summer and fall year-round. Customers who buy a snowmobile in the summer won’t have to return in a few months to purchase the clothing they’ll wear when they ride it. He’s also expanding the selection of brands, such as Fox, that people buy for status, even if they aren’t motor sports enthusiasts.

Being within about a month of introducing the new store is a relief for Johnson, who has spent more than five years working on the project. Initially when he approached the property owner, the land and the building weren’t for sale. Then he encountered unanticipated challenges after he acquired it more than three years ago.

He served as general contractor to save money when he learned he needed to install a $100,000 sprinkler system since the cost of the remodel exceeded the value of the building. That made it difficult to obtain financing.

He also had to complete a costly environmental assessment because of the property’s proximity to a railroad and a gas station that operated at the location from 1920 to 1950. That involved hiring a firm to dig 20-foot holes, 3 feet into the water table in various places, taking soil samples every 5 feet and testing the water. The study confirmed the property didn’t need any environmental cleanup, clearing the way for Johnson to proceed.

The hassles have been worthwhile, Johnson said, and not just because of the increase in revenue he expects the investment to generate.

He believes improving the prominent corner was something he was supposed to do as part of leaving his community a little better than before he was here.

“God had a plan,” he said.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

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