Lacy Lane said when he began selling Dixie Choppers in southern West Virginia he was always asked the same question: What kind of motorcycle is a Dixie Chopper?

"They didn't relate it to a lawnmower at all," Lane said.

It was 1998 and Lane, of Shady Spring, had retired and wanted something to do as a hobby.

"I sort of stumbled across the Dixie Chopper mower," he said. "When I became the authorized dealer for this area, I figured I would sell four or five of them a year. I sold 14 the first year, 28 the second and over 40 in the third year."

Last year, Lane sold 70 units.

"I kept selling more and more each year," he said. "It's been a great success for me."

Lane said the Dixie Chopper has features not found on other mowers.

"It is the best lawnmower for commercial lawn companies and residential users as well," Lane said. "It's easy to use, maintain and service. It's the Cadillac of the lawnmowing industry."

Lane said initially the bulk of his customers were commercial users.

"Now it's about 50-50," he said. "They have really become popular with residential customers as well."

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Lane said his age and health have become factors in keeping the dealership, so he began looking for an appropriate replacement.

"I'm getting up there in age and my health is not the greatest, so I began looking for a quality place to replace me as the area dealer," Lane said. "I wanted my customers in the past to have a dependable reliable local dealer. I was at Southern Wheels getting an inspection sticker for my vehicle and I began talking to Dean Mills about it."

Mills owns Southern Wheels in Beaver and jumped at the chance to sell such a high-quality mower.

"Dixie Chopper mowers have led the way in the lawn and garden industry," Mills said. "I have owned one myself for the past three years and felt this was an excellent opportunity."

Lane predicts Southern Wheels will be able to increase sales as much as 20 percent this year.

"Southern Wheels has an excellent shop in a high-traffic area," Lane said.

Lane said Southern Wheels officially took over the dealership July 5.

Lane will assist Southern Wheels for several months as a consultant and territorial manager.

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Art Evans made the first Dixie Chopper in 1981.

The mowers are known for their performance, productivity and reliability. The company is still family-owned and operated, near Greencastle, Ind.

"Dixie Chopper produces the best mid-mount, zero turning mowers in the industry," Lane said. "This mower will have many years of usable life left after it is paid for. Dixie Chopper may not be the first mower you have ever purchased, but chances are it will be the last."

Mills said those purchasing a Dixie Chopper from Southern Wheels will get full service, a warranty from Dixie Chopper and the engine manufacturer, and a loaner mower if repairs take more than 24 hours. He said various financing plans are also available, some with zero percent interest.

"We intend to give the customer service people have come to expect with Dixie Chopper mowers," he said.

However, Mills said Dixie Choppers are manufactured for ease of service to reduce costs of maintenance and repairs.

"Dixie Choppers are built to last," he said. "Many components carry a lifetime warranty, like the frame, front caster bearings, steering levers and linkage, as well as our stainless steel body panels from rust."

Dixie Chopper has the largest air-cooled, vertical shaft engine in the industry to date, Mills added.

"What does that mean to you?" Mills said. "I urge everyone to visit Southern Wheels in Beaver and test drive a Dixie Chopper today."

For more information, call Southern Wheels at 256-1151.

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