“Honda of Michigan City, how can I help you?”
“Hi, may I speak with Keith Jones, please?”
“Keith? [long pause]. Oh, you mean Katfish. Sure – one moment please…”
When you first talk to Keith “Katfish” Jones, it’s like you’re talking to someone you’ve known your whole life. The jovial General Manager at Honda of Michigan City says that comes from the fact that he loves people.
“I used to tour with rock bands. I was a lighting guy, and I met so many cool people on the road. Then when I started working at dealerships, I realized how much I like working with people who love bikes as much as I do. Bikers and music people – we’re a family,” Katfish said.
Katfish got his nickname from a rather hilarious, albeit slightly off-color joke one night out on the road, but he laughs about it now and embraces the name that has stuck with him for more than two decades.
While in the music business, he toured or did shows with the likes of Belle Gunness, Eddie Money, Ace Frehley, Candlebox, 38 Special, Disturbed, Loudmouth, and – get this – Sherri Lewis of Lambchop fame.
But as much as he loved music, he loved dirt bikes more and needed to get into an industry that would allow him some discounts so he could support his racing habit.
“I’ve ridden bikes since I was 8. I’ve raced since I was 10, back when they didn’t really have mini class. I had to race with adults,” he said.
Katfish has since given up racing – said it hurts his bones – but back then, he received a trophy in every class he raced.
“I thought I’d be pro someday, but I just wasn’t fast enough. I got up to A-class and got my butt kicked,” he laughed.
He’s also crashed a few times, and now endures the leftover aches and pains of that.
“Everything happens in slow motion when you crash. I’ve been slammed pretty good – bit a hole through my tongue once. Broke my ankle. Sprained my neck…”
These days, he tools around on his road bike instead, and pretty much only in fair weather.
“I used to race and be soaked to the bone in all kinds of weather, and I don’t need that anymore,” he admitted.
Katfish got his love of motorcycles from an important role model in his life.
“My dad got me started young. I started with a little 50, and I remember I got on that thing and ran it right through the garden and plowed into the fence. But I worked my way up to it, got a minibike, then a dirt bike. My dad used to be a woods racer, but he died too young,” Katfish said. He was 16 when his dad passed away.
“I have to credit my dad. He’s the one who got me started.”
Since being in the industry, Katfish has worked in nearly all aspects of a motorcycle shop, including parts and service manager. He was at Honda of Michigan City for about seven years, took a few years break and came back as general manager 2 ½ years ago.
“It was the best career move I ever made,” he said.
His mom was ill at the time, and he needed to be close to her, so the Michigan City native came back home. She has since passed, but he’s grateful for the opportunity to have found a job close to her during that time. He’s even more grateful for his team at Honda of Michigan City.
“The owners are fantastic, and I couldn’t ask for a better team,” he said.
“I love this job because it puts me in direct contact with those customers, and I’m a customer-oriented kind of person,” Katfish said. “And we are family-oriented.”
His favorite customer story so far is when a man came in with his two sons ready to buy three very specific vehicles. But Katfish only had one in stock and couldn’t order the other two.
He spent all day personally traveling to Greensburg, Ind., then over to Fort Wayne, just to pick up two more vehicles for the customer.
“That’s what we are about. I’m pretty much going to find a way to make it happen if you want to buy a bike here,” he said, noting that he knows how excited he would have been to have that similar experience with his own father as a kid.
Parts manager Bob Schmitt – who also plays bass guitar – used to work with Katfish in the music industry years ago, and they rode together, too. Other team members include office manager Abbey Sweet, service writer Stephanie Eggert, and technician Chase Burrell.
“If you’re going to have a good, solid shop, you need a good team. We’ve drawn a lot of customers back from previous years,” Katfish said.
As winter sets in, Katfish and team are prepping to move all-terrain vehicles out the door.
“This time of the year it’s all about ATVs and side-by-sides. You can put plows on them, they’re just awesome. A side-by-side, you can completely enclose it, heat it, put a salt spreader on the back. The sky’s the limit. That’s what carries us through in the wintertime,” he said.
When Katfish isn’t managing the shop, he’s spending time with his girlfriend, Angela, of 25-plus years, his kids, and his 14 grandkids. Yes, 14.
“Angela is my rock,” he said. “She keeps me on track. I’m a family guy, so I like that we have that family atmosphere here at the shop as well,” Katfish said. He noted Honda of Michigan City’s recent Trunk or Treat event that was a big success, and the fact that they have a box full of plastic goodies for kids when they come in.
“Kids just love it here, so we must be doing something right.”
For more information about your next street bike, ATV, side-by-side, or dirt bike purchase, or for gear and accessories, visit Honda of Michigan City at 2966 N. U.S. 421 in Michigan City, or check them out online at https://www.hondaofmichigancity.com/.