Campbell Mixes M.D., Motors

December 17, 2007
| By Pete Daly |
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MUSKEGON — Dr. Mark Campbell wears several hats, and sometimes a helmet.

Most of the time he is an M.D., one of West Michigan's leading cancer specialists. Other times he is a business investor, or a motorcycle enthusiast, or a Muskegon promoter, and sometimes even an artist.

Campbell is the executive director of the Spectrum Health Regional Cancer Network. He is also a founding member and president of the Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan, a business owned by 16 doctors, with a total of 200 employees working at various locations.

Born in Detroit in 1948, Campbell was such a good artist in high school that he won a National Scholastic Art Association scholarship to Boston University. But he attended Michigan State University instead because he had already decided on a career in medicine. He attended MSU for five years and earned a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a Bachelor of Arts in art. He was accepted at the Wayne State University medical school, where he received his M.D. degree in 1975; he was awarded the WSU Distinguished Service Award the same year.

Campbell is board certified in internal medicine, having trained at Butterworth Hospital. In 1980 he completed a fellowship at Wayne State in medical oncology, in which he also is board certified. In 1991 he completed a master's degree in health care administration from the University of Colorado. In those years he also attended Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and served on the boards of Holland Home and Cornerstone University.

Campbell also has an interest in business. In 1996 he bought a muck farm near U.S. 131 south of Grand Rapids and started an auto auction for dealers. He sold the successful business in 2000. He then bought a car dealership near the Lakes Mall in Muskegon, My Auto Import Center, which he still owns. In July this year, he and a partner opened a Harley-Davidson dealership in downtown Muskegon the day before the start of Bike Time, a new event which the two helped organize and promote, and which brought an estimated 50,000 visitors to downtown for the most lucrative tourist weekend Muskegon businesses have enjoyed in years. And next year's Bike Time is predicted to be even bigger.

BRIEFLY
Name:
Mark G. Campbell, M.D.
Company: Hot Rod Harley-Davidson
Title: Owner
Age: 59
Birthplace: Detroit
Residence: Ada
Family: Wife, Marty; son, Scott, and daughter, Ellie.
Business/Community Organizations: Board member Spectrum Foundation, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.
Biggest Career Break: Being recommended for medical school by Dr. Pomeroy of Sparrow Hospital in 1970.

Not bad for a guy with dyslexia who was the first in his blue-collar family to graduate from college. Campbell said he has always had a hard time reading and writing, and even today has to devote more time to his medical reading than other doctors. When he was at MSU, he decided a speed reading course would solve his problem, so he enrolled in an Evelyn Wood course. First, however, they tested him to determine his reading ability. When the results came back, he was told to forget about taking the class, because it would not help him. His reading ability was just too low. Somehow he persevered, without Evelyn Wood.

Campbell said he decided as a youth to become a doctor because of watching "Marcus Welby, M.D." on television. "I thought that would be a fulfilling life," he said.

His first experience with motors was a 1958 Lambretta motor scooter he used for delivering the Detroit News when he was 14. It was a large route, he said, too large to manage on a bicycle.

Then came decades of hard work, with no time for motorcycles. That changed in 2002 when Campbell bought his first Harley-Davidson. He was hooked, and destined for a business in downtown Muskegon.

For at least three generations, Muskegon has been a familiar name to motorcycle enthusiasts throughout the U.S. because of the Muskegon Hill Climb motorcycle competition (also called the Mt. Garfield Hill Climb). Muskegon also has long been a Harley town. Jim Snell opened a Harley dealership there in the early 1960s, and 40 years later was still in the same shop, a block or two from downtown.

"Two years ago, I heard Mr. Snell was thinking of retiring. I got the idea: Let's see if we can buy the Harley dealership," said Campbell.

Campbell and his business partner, Carl Miskotten, succeeded in that goal and then invested a lot of money in a large, modern store, Hot Rod Harley Davidson, just up the hill from Snell’s former shop.

"We wanted to stay in downtown Muskegon," noted Campbell.

Today the motorcycle culture in America has changed. There is a lot more diversity among motorcycle enthusiasts now: The word "outlaws" has been replaced with "in-laws" and "by-laws." Years ago there were almost no female owners of Harley-Davidsons. In 2006, 12 percent of Harley owners were female, according to Harley-Davidson.com. The female presence "is the fastest growing demographic" in Harley ownership, noted Campbell.

Average age and income of Harley owners are higher now, too. In 2006, the average Harley buyer was about 47 or 48 with an income of about $82,000.

Hot Rod Harley-Davidson isn't a shop — it's destination shopping, and not just for motorcycles. Equal floor space is devoted to clothing and myriad accessories. Campbell noted that many families could do some of their Christmas shopping there.

The store also rents Harleys and offers various levels of classes to qualify new owners for a motorcycle endorsement on their Michigan driver's licenses.

The large Zoom Room downstairs is where people gather for social or community events. On one wall is a colorful mural depicting the front of the Snell shop as it appeared "back when." There are also some interesting historical motorcycles on display among the modern Harleys, including a rare collection of restored Harleys that are a little larger than mopeds, made 40 or 50 years ago.

Hot Rod Harley-Davidson is also a place where Campbell has indulged his love of art. A two-lane blacktop highway starts inside the main entrance and runs through the center of the store. It's painted on, complete with vivid yellow center stripe, and it was Campbell's idea.

Look up to the mezzanine level and there is a row of life-size, cartoon-like people made out of papier-mâché sitting astride papier-mâché motorcycles. Campbell saw similar figures in Washington, D.C., and tracked down the artist to commission the colorful bikers for his store.

It's obviously a lot of fun, but it's still a business. According to Campbell, the average Harley dealership in West Michigan does about $9 million to $10 million a year in business. The uncertain U.S. economy is a challenge, however. The Harley-Davidson company closed its plants for one week in late November. The temporary shutdown was announced in September, part of a plan to cut production due to slumping sales. The company said it expected to sell between 328,000 and 332,000 bikes in 2007, down from 349,196 last year.

"Harley-Davidson started in 1903 in Milwaukee, right across the lake from Muskegon. It's got a long history," said Campbell — just like Muskegon.

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