November 5, 2014
A frank discussion with Sherman Barnett
At a very young age, Sherman Barnett had a passion for fast cars and motorcycles, and when he moved out to El Paso that passion led him into the job of a lifetime.
Sherman Barnett is the proud owner of Barnett’s Harley Davidson in El Paso. The store began with a small collection of vehicles, but it has now grown into something more. “We have the most Harley Davidson motorcycles of anyone in the world in one location,” Barnett said. “No place on earth will you see this many motorcycles unless you go to a rally.” The inventory includes everything from a V-Rod to the Sportster and the FLHX Street Glide.
It took time and patience for Barnett to get his business to where it is now. The store is renowned and has garnered the attention of many visitors from different places around the U.S and every corner of the world. Many people come to the store hoping to snap a picture with Barnett or to see the huge collection of bikes the store has to offer. Celebrities such as country music singer Alan Jackson, daredevil Evel Knievel, and boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya have been known to pop in. “I remember when Oscar De La Hoya dropped by; he stopped the freeway traffic,” Barnett said. Barnett even recounted the time when his store made it on to the nightly news after a semi-truck plowed into his storefront. “I wasn’t at the store, and thankfully no one got hurt,” He said.
Barnett’s Harley Davidson dealership has become an amazing success story, but of course every story has a beginning and for Barnett it began on a farm in Southeast Missouri where he lived with his family. Barnett’s father was a cotton farmer and so from a young age he helped his family by picking cotton. “I’ve picked so much cotton I won’t even buy aspirin because it has the cotton inside of it,” Barnett said laughing. It was working on the farm that taught Barnett the meaning of hard work which he has always taken pride in. “Growing up I always prided myself in being able to do things better than anyone else could do them” he said.
After high school Barnett worked for a management company out of California. “We went out around the country helping car dealers who were going bankrupt or needed help,” Barnett said. The company would assist the dealers in getting back in the black and would help them put a good crew together. After some time working for the company, Barnett was transferred to El Paso where his passion would soon come into fruition. “Two weeks after we hit El Paso we decided this is where we wanted to spend the rest of our lives,” he said. And he wasn’t lying; Barnett has now been in El Paso for 53 years. “I just fell in love with El Paso. I think it’s the greatest place on earth,” he said.
After a few years of living in El Paso, in 1977 Barnett got in the Harley business. He and his wife worked in the Harley shop along with only two mechanics. They did everything from sweeping the floors to pushing the bikes outside themselves. The hard work paid off because quickly the store became a huge success.
With all of the great achievements the Barnett family has racked up, they try to give back to the community that has helped them become so successful. “We try to do some kind of charity event once a week. That’s our goal.” Barnett said. “We’ve been doing this blood drive for years and what started the blood drive was that my oldest son Mark was diagnosed with leukemia and it took a lot of blood to get him through.” They host the blood drive twice a year and Barnett gives a Harley Davidson motorcycle away during each event. The other event Barnett hopes to turn into something bigger is the health fair. The idea came from one of the HOG (Harley Owners Group) club members, who is a pharmacist and Barnett loved the idea. “Anything you could do to give back is a blessing.” He said.
When Barnett is not working at the store you can find him racing out at the El Paso Speedway Park. The El Paso Speedway Park, which is a 3/8 mile clay track where fans of fast cars go out to race, was purchased 10 years ago as a three-way partnership between Royal Jones, Jimmy Ray, and Sherman Barnett. “I do about a 100 races a year” Barnett said.
With having achieved the mantle of “The World’s Biggest Harley Davidson” dealership Barnett now hopes to have the largest Harley clothing line as the store continues to grow. For those looking to set out and start their own business Barnett had a few words of advice, “Try to find what you like. That’s the key. And get all the education you can get. Learn everything about the product and work hard. Always work hard.”