URBANA - Sharon Andrae learned all about hard work when she was growing up on her family's farm.
?I milked 40 head of cows every morning before I went to school, and at night, they waited for me,? she recalls.
Andrae and her late husband, Dick Andrae, worked just as hard building up their Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership in Urbana, and this year, all those efforts are paying off.
Sharon Andrae, who carried on the dealership after her husband's death in 1996, just opened the big new store of their dreams. And she recently learned she has been chosen by the Small Business Administration to be Illinois' ?Small Business Person of the Year.?
?It hasn't soaked in yet,? Andrae says. ?But it's quite exciting, and I'm proud that I'm a lady in business by myself.?
Andrae's Harley-Davidson Sales & Service recently moved from its longtime location at 1401 E. Main St., U, to a new, 22,500-square-foot building at 2010 N. Lincoln Ave., U.
The new building is more than double the size of the old one and includes much more room for service, parts, storage and display of motorcycles, accessories, motor clothes and collectibles. The new store even has a children's department with everything from baby-size Harley-Davidson outfits to toys.
Andrae said she and her late husband always had long-range plans to build a bigger store. In fact, when they remodeled the old one about a decade ago, it was already too small, she said.
?We really grew there,? Andrae said. ?In the last six or seven years, we've tripled business.?
Andrae said she didn't consider changing towns when she built her new store.
?Urbana is my home,? she said.
Sharon Andrae never rode a motorcycle in her life before she married a motorcycle racer. In the early years of their marriage, she secretly bought herself an old motorcycle at a garage sale and taught herself the basics.
One day, her husband came home early and saw her practicing on it and went out and bought her a new motorcycle, she said. They rode together as a hobby and became Harley-Davidson dealers in 1965, opening their first store in an old tin building that had room enough for only one showcase and one motorcycle.
For more than 30 years, Sharon Andrae lived in a house attached to the old store. With the move to a new store has come her first new house in all those years - one she had built in Urbana's Beringer Commons subdivision. Driving to work is something she'll have to get used to, Andrae said.
The $2 million new-store project has been another bit of adjustment, but the reaction from customers so far has been all she hoped for.
?Most people walk in and say, ?Wow,'?she said.
Andrae was nominated for ?Small Business Person of the Year? by Jim Miller, vice president of small business banking at National City Bank.
Miller said he nominated Andrae, one of the bank's customers, because he has long admired the way she runs her business and contributes to the community.
?She's always concerned about everybody else,? he said. ?I think a lot of people don't realize she's been involved in the family business since 1965. I just thought she's a great role model for women business owners.?
Some of the requirements for consideration for the Small Business Person of the Year award include being in business a substantial number of years, showing sustained growth in business and making contributions to the community.
The U.S. Small Business Administration hands out awards in a number of categories annually by state to recognize small businesses' contribution to the economy.
Andrae and other Illinois winners will be honored the week of June 16 in Chicago, and she has also been entered in the national Small Business Person of the Year competition that will culminate in Washington, D.C., in September.
Urbana Community Development Director Libby Tyler says Andrae's Harley-Davidson is a real success story for the city.
The new store, located near Interstate 74, is in a city enterprise zone, so Andrae was eligible for some city assistance with the new building. Tyler said the city contributed $61,000 toward the infrastructure cost of the project.
?It's going to have a regional draw,? Tyler said. ?And I think access to the interstate is going to be real important to facilitate that.?
In building the new store, Andrae increased her employment from 13 to 17 people and is keeping the same hours for now, which includes being closed on Sunday. But she predicts she'll have to begin opening on Sundays before long, since so many other dealers are doing it, she said.
The new store is full of corrugated tin, cedar wood and Americana touches. The store had much of the merchandise before, but Andrae said there's finally room to display a lot more of it.
There are three generations of Andraes working at the store. Sharon Andrae's daughter, Linn Simpson, works in management, and Linn's husband, Randy, is sales manager. Andrae's three grandchildren, Carissa, Rhett and Trent Simpson, all help out part time.
At 64, Andrae says she's nowhere near ready to retire. But with her family and more employees on hand, she does have a bit more time to indulge her favorite hobby.
?There is nothing I enjoy more than getting on my motorcycle and going for a ride,? she says.
You can reach Debra Pressey at (217) 351-5229 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .