The Need for Speed
Zach Materne, general manager at The Transportation Revolution New Orleans, is a native of the Crescent City who can trace his family back to 1699 on his dad’s side. His mom’s side of the family is also from here. While Materne says that there are many things to love about New Orleans, it’s the people that he loves the most. Through the family’s business, Materne offers New Orleanians fun, alternative modes of transportation — all on two wheels.
It all started in 1999 after a family trip to Italy. “My brother, Max, and I were members of the St. Louis Cathedral Boys Choir, and we were in Rome to sing for the Pope,” Materne says. “My mom fell in love with the Vespas all over the place and thought they would be an awesome way to get around New Orleans.”
When they returned home to New Orleans, Materne’s parents, Gayle and Stephen, started researching Vespa and found that Piaggio, the parent company of Vespa, was returning to the United States. “They began the application process, which required a business plan, financials and the most Italian piece of the application — a passionate essay,” Materne says. “We are not sure which part of the application pushed us over the top, but we beat out a few other applicants, and were awarded the Vespa franchise in late 2001. We opened Vespa New Orleans in Mid-City in July 2002.”
In 2004, the family purchased TTRNO’s current location at the corner of Julia and Baronne streets in the Warehouse District, and, after a slight delay from Hurricane Katrina, opened in Feb. 2006. The larger location allowed for an expanded product lineup that includes Triumph Motorcycles and Ducati. Last year, as the company celebrated its 15th anniversary, it was awarded BMW Motorcycles of New Orleans — the first BMW motorcycle dealership in the heart of New Orleans in more than 25 years and the only between Baton Rouge and Pensacola, Fla.
“This is important for TTRNO because the BMW brand is the pinnacle of two-wheeled brands in the world, and it fits perfectly in our culture and approach as a business,” Materne says. “It is also important because for the first time in the city’s history, the BMW logo (the fifth most recognized in the world) is now flying in downtown New Orleans.”
The new BMWs on offer include scooters and small motorcycles from the urban mobility family of products, which are perfect for city riders and accessible for beginners. For example, the BMW G310 is a beginner bike that retails for $4,750. In addition to BMW, TTRNO also offers Vespa and Piaggio scooters, Triumph and Ducati motorcycles, service, performance work and motorcycle riding gear at the store.
TTRNO’s 6,000-square-foot showroom has been remodeled to accommodate the BMW brand presence, while also enhancing the customer experience, increasing programming and serving as a community space for motorcycle and scooter enthusiasts throughout the Gulf South. “We added 3,000 square feet of showroom space, and an additional 1,000 square feet of service workshop area,” Materne says. “We also lofted our warehouse to accommodate additional motorcycles.”
The Materne family’s focus on alternative methods of transportation stemmed from a need that they could see almost 20 years ago. “More older buildings were being turned into condos and apartments, and a lot of these areas of town had limited parking,” Materne says. “In addition to the condo trend, there were just more people moving into the urban areas of the city, which makes transportation on two wheels easier and more fun. They reduce the number of cars on the road; they are easier to park; and, most importantly, the sights and smells that you experience while on a motorcycle or scooter can’t be beat.”
Customer service is paramount at TTRNO, with sales associates creating a comfortable buying experience. “Buying a motorcycle or scooter can be intimidating for someone who is new to it, and we want to make sure that we are approachable to these new customers,” Materne says. “We also operate not only as a retail business, but as a clubhouse for people who share the same passion for motorcycles and scooters. We are able to do that with our regular events like our Thursday evening Sunset Rides (the first Thursday of every month), and our Tech Talk series. Our Tech Talks are ways for us to pull back the curtain and educate the customer on different aspects of their bikes and motorcycling in general. These events range from engine rebuilding to how to change a tire, to how to ride your bike on a race track. We try to host Tech Talks at least six times per year.”
Materne, who says he likes to switch up his personal motorcycle with one of TTRNO’s demo bikes, is currently riding a 2017 Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro. Looking forward, he is most excited to see how the industry evolves over the next few years. “All of the brands that we carry have been adjusting a little of their focus on building small, more approachable products for new riders and city riders,” he says. “We should also see fully electric bikes in the near future.” 901 Julia St., (504) 595-6776, ttrno.com