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Bank forecloses on Kansas-based Big Dog Motorcycles

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Big Dog Motorcycles is shutting down and putting its remaining employees to work making parts, accessories and gear for the 25,000 custom bikes it has made over the past 17 years.

The Wichita Eagle reported that Intrust Bank foreclosed on the Wichita-based company Wednesday and that founder Sheldon Coleman Jr. — heir and once CEO of the camping and outdoor equipment maker Coleman Co. — has dissolved the corporation.

Mike Simmons, president of BDM Performance Products, said Coleman formed the new company to make products for Big Dog bikes at Big Dog's former service, research and development buildings east of downtown Wichita.

Unhappy with his own Harley Fat Boy, Coleman started customizing Harleys in his garage in 1994 and had sold 100 bikes by 1996. Initially, Big Dog was a customized version of a Harley-Davidson. Eventually, Big Dog redesigned more of the parts.

Big Dog Motorcycles boomed when the housing market was strong. Many of its buyers were builders with money to spend, and the company's annual growth rate hit as high as 80 percent.

At the height of its popularity in 2005, the company built more than 5,000 bikes, had more than 300 workers and more than $120 million in revenue.

But the recession meant shrinking sales, and layoffs started in early 2007. Today, just 22 employees remain; they will go to work for BDM Performance Products.

Big Dog's website said it has 100 dealers throughout the United States, and the company informed many of them this week that it was shutting down. Simmons said the company won't honor warranty claims because it has dissolved, along with any claims and debts.

He said that while have been some hard feelings as business has soured, the company hasn't ruined its relationship with its dealers.

"We've been up front about the business and more than fair with our (dealer) network," he said.

Simmons wouldn't speculate about whether a Big Dog-like motorcycle manufacturing company would ever be resurrected.

"I can't predict the future," he said.

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