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John Denning

1940-2022

Lifelong dealer John Denning, owner of one of the UK’s most successful and long-serving Suzuki dealers, Crescent Suzuki – now multi-franchise over three sites – died on 2 April, aged 81, following a short illness.

John was born in Guernsey in 1940, son of motorcycle dealer Ted Denning. Evacuated as a three-week-old baby when the Germans invaded the Channel Islands, John joined his father’s motorcycle and bicycle business straight from school in 1956.

In 1950 Ted had sold his Guernsey motorcycle business and set up in Bournemouth on the corner of Charminster Road, and St Albans Crescent – hence Crescent Motorcycles.

Ted and John specialised in lightweights, including cyclemotors, from NSU, BSA, DKW, James, Binetta, Ankermatic, Gilera, Puch, Lambretta, Zundapp and New Hudson.

In 1963 John was in his workshop when he noticed a car pull up towing a trailer with three lightweights on board. He thinks the driver was Maurice Knight, then working for Lambretta importer Peter Agg, who was about to become the Suzuki importer.

Reminiscing on that pivotal day John said: “We pulled the bikes off the trailer and did a good road test. We were very impressed and decided to take them on. Those first three models were a Suzuki M15D 50cc motorcycle, M30 50cc scooterette and K10 80cc motorcycle.

“The Suzuki two-stroke range grew fast, including off-road. In the 1980s, the TS/ZR50 sports mopeds sold well. In 1985 I tried out the new GSXR750 by delivering it to a customer 12 miles away. I was extremely impressed! Those were the days of quite lavish dealer conferences. I remember a great two weeks in Texas.

“When I was last at the Suzuki Hamamatsu factory, I was told that the only person with a longer association with the factory was Osamu Suzuki.”

In 1984 he expanded Crescent by buying the shop next door. That year Crescent founder Ted died. The following year John’s son Paul joined the business taking it into its third Denning generation. Paul’s energy eased some of the pressure, allowing John time to take up horse riding, aged 45, competing in show jumping and cross-country events.

Business expansion continued, John and Paul buying premises opposite for used bike sales. In 1994 flats above the main shop were converted to parts, accessories and clothing departments.

MX rider Paul started road racing in 1993, taking Crescent into professional rider and race team management in 1997. John sacrificed some of his equine activities to involve himself in this new venture. In 2004 Crescent Suzuki won the BSB title and sold more than 100 John Reynolds Suzuki GSXR race replicas that year alone.

Crescent next became multi-franchise, taking on-premises in Verwood and Southampton (2014, Honda). Suzuki was moved to Verwood, returning to Bournemouth (2019) into expanded premises at least ten times larger than the original 1950 Bournemouth shop.

In 2019 Verwood was relaunched as a Yamaha destination store. Crescent had joined Yamaha in a racing partnership in 2016. In 2021 they won the WSB title with rider Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Crescent Yamaha). This was a source of great pride for John in Crescent’s 71st year.

Paying tribute to his father, Paul Denning said: “John leaves a legacy of 65 years’ service to Crescent customers as well as guidance and care to Crescent staff. Operating the business in a prudent and professional manner, he gained a reputation for customer service as his priority.

“He supported me in expanding Crescent activities in the mid-1990s and played an important role to the end. He was a constant source of encouragement and guidance. He was energetic, humble and deeply generous with an irreverent sense of fun. He will be deeply missed by his wife Angela, the family and his many friends and colleagues the world over.”

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