NEW VENTURE IN MADISON: John Thornton jokes that if customers ever went to his Versailles motorcycle shop, they probably found it by accident. Thornton and his daughter, Tammy Schwagmeier, are hoping that their new location, which will open soon on Clifty Drive in Madison, will be a lot more accessible to future customers. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
NEW VENTURE IN MADISON: John Thornton jokes that if customers ever went to his Versailles motorcycle shop, they probably found it by accident. Thornton and his daughter, Tammy Schwagmeier, are hoping that their new location, which will open soon on Clifty Drive in Madison, will be a lot more accessible to future customers. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
As a 13-year-old, John Thornton fell in love with motorcycles.

That's when he began riding them, and he's been surrounded by them ever since.

The owner of Thornton's Motorcycle Sales said he used to ride motorcycles non-stop until age started to catch up with him.

"I'm 73," he said. "I wish I could still ride good, but I can't."

In the 1950s he started building and repairing motorcycles for fun.

"I'd buy something that didn't run and make it run."

Vintage bikes, he said, are his passion. He still loves to fix them up.

In 1970, he started his business in a brick building in Versailles.

Since then, the business has expanded several times over.

Thornton also expanded the services he offered. Along with selling motorcycles, parts and repairs, the shop started selling all-terrain vehicles, side-by-sides, mini-bikes and dirt bikes, along with a variety of accessories.

"When I started playing with them, there were no dirt bikes, no ATV's, no side-by- sides. All the market that exists today has evolved since then," Thornton said.

Thornton's daughter, Tammy Schwagmeier, eventually got involved in the business. Since 1998, she's been the general manager. Her husband also has worked at the shop since before the couple married.

"I kind of grew up with it," she said. "I've worked here most of my adult life."

"She used to ride mini bikes when she was just a little thing," Thornton said.

Schwagmeier and her husband are working on opening a second location of the business on the hilltop in Madison.

While it's not as spacious as their location in Versailles, Thornton said the 12,000-square-foot location has plenty of space for a showroom. The building, he said, was originally a motorcycle shop in the 1980s.

"It's laid out about perfect for what we're trying to do," Schwagmeier said.

One of the draws of the new location is the amount of traffic, Thornton said.

Their Versailles location is off the beaten path on East County Road 300.

"Where we bought the building there, the traffic flow is about 100 times what it is here," Thornton said. "We have no drive-by traffic. You're coming here if you came here."

The second Thornton's location is scheduled to open March 3.