A major fire in 2000 created the opportunity to rebuild an impressive showroom for Barney’s Motorcycles (St. Petersburg, FL). Fabric ductwork was chosen to provide aesthetic value and quiet air distribution for both the 25,000-sq-ft showroom and the remainder of the headquarters building.
Ray Hempstead, president of Barney's Motorcycles, will always remember June 25, 2000, the day when lightning struck his 17,000-sq-ft dealership and burned it to the ground for a $2 million loss. In only a few days afterward, a large white circus tent became the temporary Barney's while Hempstead and his partner/operations manager, Beverly Newton, began drawing up plans for a new, mammoth 63,000-sq-ft, three-story headquarters with a 25,000-sq-ft showroom. Spearheaded by Newton, the design team included experienced retail general contractor, R.J. Bunbury, (Clearwater, FL); architects, Collman & Karsky, (Tampa); and architecture/interior design firm, Massaro Associates, (Dunedin, FL).

With the ownership's encouragement to innovate and a $3 million budget, the design team created a modern indoor air comfort system featuring fabric ductwork, a five-theme show floor, kids' play area, local motor sports museum with multimedia displays, and other revolutionary ideas that create retail excitement and customer comfort.

Barney's stunning interior design has already caught the attention of the motorcycle industry. Last February, DealerNews, a power sports trade magazine covering North America, issued the 57-year-old Barney's its "Top 100" award in the "overall store design" category.

"Subliminally retaining customers"

Hempstead and Newton's ideas revolved around indoor air comfort and visual excitement -- two elements that subliminally retain customers and increase the opportunity for sales. "Our foot traffic is up over 25 % versus the old store," confirmed Hempstead.

Both the functionality and aesthetics of the HVAC system were crucial store design elements. Dirk Heller, vice president of R.J. Bunbury, thought the concept of fabric ductwork would not only present state-of-the-art air dispersion and indoor air comfort, but would also lessen roof load bearing, reduce duct surface dust and condensation, and cut duct labor installation and material costs by nearly 50% vs. metal duct.

Initially, Hempstead was unaware and skeptical of fabric duct. However when Heller showed him fabric duct used at nearby Home Shopping Network's headquarters office, Hempstead approved the concept. The project's consulting engineers, Engineering Professionals Inc., specified DuctSox white fabric duct air dispersion.

Bunbury specified the placement of four Trane TCD-24 6,400-cfm rooftop packaged units toward the back quarter of the store to hide them from street view. Each AHU has a bottom discharge to a ceiling plenum that supplies a 103-ft length of 22-in.-dia. to the front and a 36-ft length of 12-in. fabric duct to the back of the store. Because store aesthetics are critical, DuctSox combined its top-of-the-line material -- Sedona -- with its Comfort-FlowTM airflow, the latter which is factory engineered to allow 10% of the air to flow through the fabric's porosity. The remaining 90% of the airflow is dispersed evenly and gently through 1/8-in. linear mesh vents that run the length of the ducts at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions.

"At our previous store we had dust collecting on the ducts, but with the sight lines high from our mezzanine offices, I can see no dust is collecting on the fabric duct because some of the air flows through it," said Hempstead.

Saving the airflow noise for the open road

Both the dyed fabric duct and matching open ceiling architectural design of Collman & Karsky and Massaro created a white deck that allows the colorful motorcycles and watercrafts to stand out. "We like the fact that it blends in well but also softens the industrial look of the open ceiling," said Bryan Karsky, partner, Colman & Karsky. "The airflow noise is much less than metal, which is important to the ambiance of a retail sales floor."

Besides the HVAC system, the winning store design also included a five-themed sales floor with a branch system of walkways that lead to: a Route 66 area of cruiser style street motorcycles; a sport bike section that's anchored around a start/finish line; a Motocross terrain area; an all-terrain vehicle corner with woodsy natural outdoor interiors; and water sports area with decorative docks and piers. Parts and accessories shoppers can reach their destination via a main artery that leads directly to the back of the store.

The resurrection of Barney's after a devastating fire has created a high-tech motor sports retail outlet that caters to the shopper's indoor comfort and excites the visual senses. "Shoppers subliminally stay longer in an atmosphere where they feel comfortable," said Heller. "The longer they stay, the better the chance for a sale to occur." ES