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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Harley dealer buys adjoining Kalamian’s property

    Mike Schwartz, owner of Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson on Bank Street in New London, stands on April 25, 2024, in front of the Kalamian’s Rug Shop building he bought last month. The Kalamian property is right next door to Mike’s Famous, but Schwartz said it would not necessarily mean an expansion of the motorcycle business. (Lee Howard/The Day)
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    Mike Schwartz, owner of Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson on Bank Street in New London, stands in front of the dealership on April 25, 2024. The Kalamian’s Rug Shop property that he purchased last month is right next door to Mike’s Famous, but Schwartz said it would not necessarily mean an expansion of the motorcycle business. (Lee Howard/The Day)
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    Mike Schwartz, owner of Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson on Bank Street in New London, stands April 25, 2024, near an antique Thunderbird that pays homage to U.S. military services. (Lee Howard/The Day)
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    Mike Schwartz, owner of Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson on Bank Street in New London, talks to master technician Joe Lynch, right, on April 25, 2024. The dealership services motorcycles as well as selling them. (Lee Howard/The Day)
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    New motorcycles are lined up April 25, 2024, at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson on Bank Street in New London. The dealership has plenty of nostalgic touches. Lee Howard/The Day)
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    New London ― Kalamian’s, a family rug and carpet business that started in New London nearly a century ago, has been permanently closed, and a company controlled by Mike Schwartz, owner of Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson, has purchased several associated properties totaling 1.5 acres next to his Bank Street dealership.

    Schwartz, in an interview, said he isn’t sure what he will do with the properties he bought for a total of $650,000, but did not necessarily think it would involve an expansion of his motorcycle business. He had been using a parking area on the Kalamian property for customers, and expected to retain those spots as part of the deal.

    Louise Kalamian, one of the property co-owners and the face of the rug business for many years, called the sale of the main 1949 building at 963 Bank St. bittersweet. She added that none of the younger generation wanted to take over the business, which had been gradually diminishing over the years as hardwood floors became more popular.

    “It’s like a death for me,” Kalamian said. “It was there before I was born.”

    She said her grandfather David Kalamian started the business in 1925 after fleeing the second Armenian genocide a decade before. It was then taken over by Louise’s father Alexander, who died in 2006.

    The Kalamians dealt strictly with high-end rugs and carpets, and four decades ago things were very busy with up to six installers working at the shop. Kalamian’s also was known for its custom designs and for rug cleaning services, which have now been taken over by Barry’s Cleaners on Colman Street.

    “All five children all worked side by side,” Kalamian said. “My father was still active into the ’80s.”

    The properties at 963 Bank St., 969 Bank St. and 973 Bank St. under the name of Kalamian Realty LLC were sold for a total of $575,000 to Adaptive Reuse 963 LLC. Another property on Faye Street was sold for $75,000. Louise Kalamian’s siblings David, Neurie, Miriam and Lisa were all parties to the sale.

    “It was the right time,” Kalamian said. “It’s better to go out with a bang instead of a bust.”

    Kalamian added that she couldn’t imagine selling to anyone better than Schwartz, who did an outstanding job converting the old Coca-Cola bottling plant on Bank Street into an eye-catching showroom for motorcycles.

    “We had other offers,” Kalamian said. “But we didn’t want the building to be demolished.”

    Schwartz, during a stop in New London last month, said he planned to develop a project for the commercially zoned Kalamian site that would likely include an adaptive reuse of the buildings similar to what he accomplished 10 years ago at the Harley-Davidson dealership.

    “I just believe in responsible development, whatever is proper and appropriate,” Schwartz said.

    Schwartz, who lives in Delaware, said he’s currently working on several ideas for the Kalamian property but nothing is decided.

    Meanwhile, Schwartz remains high on his Bank Street dealership, which offers new and preowned motorcycles in a range of styles and price points. The facility, which has a parts department, also repairs, stores and upgrades motorcycles and offers classes in motorcycle safety that attract about 700 students a year. On a recent sunny day, about a dozen riders in a lot to the side of the dealership were run through the steps to help them get their motorcycle licenses.

    The dealership sponsors an annual motorcycle toy drive during the holidays along with other local events throughout the year

    “Great things come from riding,” said Schwartz. “You’re out on your own. It’s a great way to get out with nature.”

    Inside the dealership you will find a nostalgia-filled showroom with a replica of the original Harley garage, as well as an homage to a disabled soldier who traveled around the world on a Harley motorcycle donated by Schwartz to set a world record. Colorful, old-fashioned signs dot the showroom, and to one side is an antique Thunderbird festooned with images paying tribute to the U.S. military services.

    It’s an indication of the importance of the military community in the Groton and New London area, Schwartz said.

    “We like to have people find things as they go through the dealership like they happen upon something,” he added.

    Schwartz had previously tried to open a motorcycle dealership in East Lyme, but the idea was rejected by the town. That’s when he stumbled upon the old Coca-Cola plant, which proved perfect.

    “We love being in New London,” Schwartz said. “We like being in a town that’s a little bit of a gritty town ... a diverse customer base.”

    l.howard@theday.com

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