Harley-Davidson of Valparaiso Paint Department: how a lifelong passion became a career

Harley-Davidson of Valparaiso Paint Department: how a lifelong passion became a career

The paint department at Harley-Davidson of Valparaiso completes over 400 projects each year. They specialize in custom paint projects and bodywork repairs for Harley-Davidson customers across the country. This team of four, including manager John Galloway, service tech Lou Christensen, Randy Melton, and Pete Teumer, all share a piece of the work and collaborate to complete their many paint projects done annually. Galloway and Melton are both skilled in pinstriping and painting; Teumer does the bodywork and prep work at the start of a project, and Christensen manages the finishing touches before the bikes are returned to the owners.

“We have a good team right now and everything is working out really well,” Galloway said.

The team has steadily grown over the last few years; Galloway and Melton have been with Harley-Davidson of Valparaiso for over 10 years and welcomed Christensen nearly two years ago. The newest member of the department, Teumer, joined in January of 2022 after working in automobile bodywork for a portion of his career. Galloway shared that the team grew at the right time and is currently taking on a lot of work.  

“We paint for several Harley dealers, three aftermarket shops, plus people coming in off the street and repeat customers. It keeps us busy,” Galloway said.

Galloway shares that the paint department in Valparaiso is rather rare. Few, if any, Harley-Davidson dealers have their own paint department. As a result, Galloway and his team paint for dealers throughout Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and more. They are booked with work through June and looking forward to getting everyone riding their motorcycles again in time for riding season this spring. Galloway noted that the jobs are getting bigger, so a full paint job can take about a week, but a more complex job could take a longer amount of time..

“A lot of people don’t realize how labor-intensive it is. It’s a lot of hard, dirty work to get the job done,” Melton said.

The work itself is very detail-oriented and the customers often turn to the team for insight and suggestions as they are planning the work for their bikes. Christensen shared that customers have a lot of trust in them and look to the paint department to complete the visions they have for their bikes. In many cases, customers at Harley-Davidson of Valparaiso are looking to repair older bikes or custom designs that have a lot of meaning to them.

“Motorcycle work is much different than automotive bodywork. The little things are magnified and you have to be very particular,” Teumer said.

Christensen also noted that one of the best parts of his job is sharing a finished project with a customer. They get to see firsthand the amount of thought and detail customers put into their bikes, and having the opportunity to be part of a project from start to finish has been a great experience.

“For me personally, I love seeing someone’s vision come to life. So when we are able to deliver a finished bike, there is just a brightness to the moment and they are overjoyed and excited,” Christensen said.

Christensen and Teumer also shared that the impact the paint department has had on the motorcycle culture in the area is substantial. Melton and Galloway have lent their talent to Harley owners for over a decade and have created an incredible legacy for custom bikes in the area.  

Each member of the paint department has found their way to this work at an early age, whether through a lifelong love of motorcycles like Christensen or helping out their dad with bodywork and painting when they were young like Teumer. Each member of the team shared that they have each found their passion for painting and custom work at young ages and gained experience through working with friends and family.

“I started painting when I was really young. Where I grew up there were many older guys in my neighborhood with cars and motorcycles. I looked up to them and would hang out in our parent’s garage and airbrush our bicycles. That’s where it all started,” Melton said.

Aside from having a lifelong passion for this work, the team’s newest members, Christensen and Teumer, shared that they are both looking forward to working closely with the team and have the opportunity to learn from some of the most skilled painters in the business.

“The guys we work with are so talented and creative. Randy is very artistic and John is an excellent painter and is well versed in Harleys,” Teumer saidTo learn more about the paint department at Harley-Davidson of Valparaiso visit www.hdvalpo.com. You can also see some of the custom work they have done on their Instagram page at @valpoharleypaintshop.