My Dream Moves Towards Reality: The Naperville Scooter Store
I wrote a post a few weeks back titled Chasing your Dreams: The Naperville Scooter Store.
The post was written hoping to inspire others to dream big and pursue those dreams. I also wanted to share my own vision for a scooter store in my beautiful hometown of Naperville, Illinois. The time is right and Naperville is a perfect place for a scooter dealership.
In the last several weeks, I have charged ahead. Life is more fun when you have passion, and I have had a hard time containing my excitement. I am happy to say I am progressing faster than I had hoped...
My dream is becoming a reality.
I have been looking at several locations for my business, and am closing in on what I want, what I need, and realistically, what I can afford.
I hope to have my dealership open within 6 months. This may be optimistic, but it is certainly attainable.
I am currently looking at spaces, and will catch you up briefly on my search:
This was the first location I looked at. It is an eyesore in the center of Downtown Naperville. A perfect location, however the building would most likely need knocked down. I liked it for it's location, as well as my vision of beautifing the downtown. This location has been ruled out for several reasons, most importantly the price of purchase (currently asking $950,000 as a short sale), as well as the cost of improvements...
This was the next location that caught my eye. A great location on Naperville's northwestern edge, it has easy access to highways and is very visible, the building was most recently a restaurant. I have put this location on the back burner (pun?) because of it's size, and the fact that it isn't yet on the market either for rent or purchase.
When I found this location, I was blown away. The building is beautiful, with windows floor to ceiling. It's interior is open and clean. It is ready to go right now, and has great parking. It was perfect for my vision. However, the space is 6800 square feet (although divisible), and they want $23.50 per square foot. It is bigger than I need, so I would need to negotiate for part of the space. Finally, after sitting empty for two years, the space has recently come under contract for rent. Perhaps I will revisit this space for my next location, when sales dictate expansion...
I stopped by this space today. Much smaller than the previous two locations, this spot is located on Jefferson and Washington in Naperville's Downtown. It is another perfect location. The spot has many advantages. Other than it's downtown location, North Central College is just steps away, and the smaller space would certainly be easier on my budget. There is even a free parking lot adjacent to the building. My own parking lot would be wonderful, but why pay for it if you don't have to?
I have a call in to the leasing agent inquiring about the availabilty, expenses, and size of final property. I hope to get in for a look in the next few days. My biggest concern is whether or not the space is big enough for me or my distributors to consider...
Again, I am open to a variety of locations, but the research I have done so has taught me a lot. I will continue my research on properties, and am confident the perfect spot is out there...
What would Naperville Scooter be without scooters to sell?
I have been in touch with several different scooter distributers, and as of now, my two leading candidates for suppliers are Genuine Scooter and Bintelli Scooter.
Genuine is based out of Chicago, which is certainly a plus. Their product is great, and depending on model, offer either a one or two year warranty. They are currently looking to expand, however they do have two dealerships in the area, Arlington Motorsports (30 miles north) and, Scooter Works Chicago (35 miles east). I don't want to step on anyone's toes, although I have no fear of competition.
Bintelli Scooter is even more interesting to me. They offer 6 different models, and their scooters have a two year warranty. They reached out to me, and I appreciate that. I have started promoting them and their bikes on various social media networks, and am evaluating the feedback I receive. Almost everything I hear or read has been positive. As a newer company, they may be more open to supplying a new dealer, such as Naperville Scooter, then many of the bigger brands. Their business philosophy is similar to mine, with a customer first attitude. Finally, they have no dealerships in Illinois, and I hope to be the first.
I also am moving ahead on other issues as well.
I plan on buying or renting a truck and offer free delivery. I would advertise Naperville Scooter on one side, and Ken Tracy Real Estate on the other...
I would like to offer free helmets or top cases with every purchase. Again, another spot to place my marketing...
I am developing a website, and have created pages on both Facebook and Twitter.
I have looked into a dealership license, which will cost about $1000 and requires two days of classtime.
With over 15 years in the financial services industry, I certainly have been crunching numbers. I would like a full years of expenses up front, and understand my distributor would have certain expectations as well.
I am aware of the many challenges I face. I have run a small business for the last 8 years (I am a Naperville Realtor), so I know it is not easy. Great things rarely are.
My biggest hurdle is probably putting together the necessary start up money. A challenge, perhaps, but what would life be without challenges?
A bad economy? Cold winters in Illinois? Insurance? I look at those as speed bumps, not serious obstacles...
Who knows? If we have a real bad winter, we can always sell snowmobiles...
Chase your dreams.
Read the following related links/articles:
Chasing a dream: The Naperville Scooter Store
Naperville Investors: 420,436 Washington Naperville, Illinois
Apples and Oranges? Comparing the Kymco Agility 125 and the Mercedes SL 500
Follow Naperville Scooter on Facebook.
Genuine...your proximity to other dealers may not be a problem...'round here, we have two Genuine dealers less than ten miles apart
Kenny, I applaud you on your moxie, and wish you well.
Just a quick note regarding the smaller spot. A few dealerships here in sunny So-Cal feature small, if not tiny but well appointed showrooms, with off-site (read cheaper...) warehousing and/or service.
Just throwing it out there, you sound like you know what your doing but as a start-up looking at the winter season ahead, less may be more location-wise.
And of course as a realtor you already know location, location, location.
Point being, does the entirety of the operation need to be under one roof? At least initially?
Good luck chasing your dream!
Good luck in your ventures.
Exciting! I'll be following both here and on facebook.
Genuine sells great scooters and they are very well-established - hell, for many years before operating Genuine, they were Scooterworks, the country's biggest vintage Vespa parts seller.
If you move up to small bikes, check these guys out. I've talked to a distributor at the IMS and he was pretty pumped up about them. They use Lifan engines which can be installed in smaller Hondas.
Best wishes to you, Kenny. It is the American dream to do what you are doing. One word of advice from someone that has worked with automobile dealerships his entire adult life: keep your overhead as low as you possibly can. That is the number one secret to success. I like your last location the best, keep it small at the beginning, you can always expand.
Hi Soboy,Nathan, Vtwin, Seraph, Greyhound, Gunrunner, Gordy and Redhand. Thanks for all the kind words of encouragement and advice!
Good idea on the two locations, one retail, one warehouse. My guess is I wouldn't need too much space dedicated to storing bikes. I assume delivery from distributors can be a quick process. Have 10-20 bikes on hand? Maybe one or two of each model out front, the rest stored safely in back? Just some thoughts...
As far as space goes, after speaking with agent on last property, they are asking (I assume negotiable) for $5600/month for that 1900 sqf space. Seems obnoxiously high to me. I would need to sell 10 bikes/month just to cover rent...
I have a call into another location. Not right downtown. Not even that pretty. However, it is 2463 sqf, and is located next to a few different automobile (not dealership, but fix up, supplies, mechanic type) stores. Perhaps some synergies? Perhaps much cheaper. I will post pictures and details as they come in...
Overhead is certainly key for any small business.
Thanks again guys!
Keep looking, that is too much money for that space. Location is very important but so is overhead. And the difference between having vehicles that are in high demand that can make you a fair profit and having an oversupply that you need to sell at cost or a loss is just one unit. The European OEMs have understood this for decades. Have just a bit less inventory than meets the demand and you can make much more profit per unit. Also, make customer service your number one priority and you will end up being more profitable. Best of luck and keep us posted!
Good luck finding a space! That downtown location does sound awfully expensive, and synergy or no being a little (just a little) out of the way isn't too bad of a problem. From my experience as a customer, most shops are not in high-traffic downtown areas. The two I can think of that were are either out of business or relocated to cheaper locales...
I do want to say what, in my experience, separates a good scooter shop from a bad one. Location, mechanic quality, selection of bikes and accessories - of course all of these matter. But before that you have to come at it with the right mentality, and I think you are - you have to start as a scooterist. Scooter sellers fall into 3 major categories, as I see it: 1) motorcycle shops looking to fill out their product selection; 2) opportunists selling cheap scooters during gas price peaks; and 3) scooter shops run by people who just like scooters.
The first two may succeed, somewhat, but they isolate their customer base. Motorcycle shops treat scooter buyers as second-rate customers - if you're on commission, are you going to pay attention to the $3,000 scooter buyer or the $15,000 Ducati buyer? #2 types tend to be all volume, no support, and garner no sense of community to build a solid customer base with. The last, #3 shops, are the best. Their love of scooters is infectious and makes the sales pitch, customer service, and after-sales experience all the better. Communities will support them - I know a lot of scooterists that travel to suburban dealerships rather than go to shops in-town because they get better service. Some don't bring enough business savvy to their love of scooters and go out of business too quickly.
It sounds to me like you'll be in category #3. Even if I don't have a ton of confidence in your choice of brand you at least are coming at this from the standpoint of a scooter rider - albeit one that apparently knows how to actually run a business. I wish you the best.
^^ what Seraph said.
Phil McCaleb of Genuine Scooter, a perfect example. An infectuous personal passion fuels building of a whole market.
Still, a hard dollar; lotta years of a lotta work. And probably worth every minute.
Best of luck.
I never said so, but I never liked your first building choice. Way too big, and in terrible condition. IMO, a smaller building is the way to go, and while you can store crated scooters somewhere else, your building will need a shop capable of repairing/servicing everything you sell. Here is a local scooter shop that works. http://www.scooterinvasion.com/ Been around over 10 years, so it survived the worst of the recession. It is where I bought my Genuine Stella. Unfortunately I see they are back to selling Chinese scooters, which caused them some trouble a while back. And unfortunately, Phoenix, AZ does not have the beautiful location you do there, it is one of the ugliest, and hottest cities in the country.
Not sure about giving away helmets, top boxes, etc. That will cost you money, and you will have to account for the cost, and they are not something everyone will want. I would keep the cost of the basic scooter as low as possible, and then offer accessories. The most important factor in the purchase of every vehicle I have ever bought has been, "how low can I get it out the door for"? I may then turn around and spend a fortune on accessories for it, but I initially want to get it as cheaply as possible, then take some time to decide what exactly I want to do with it. And if the dealer tries to pressure me into buying stuff "right then and there", then I will usually get it elsewhere. It is a lot easier to have stuff available and let people talk themselves into buying it that trying to pressure them into it.
I grew up in the scooter business and over 50 years have seen the popularity of scooters come and go. Will scooters be popular a year from now, 5 years from now? I'd like to think that scooter sales will continue to rise along with gas prices but my experience tells me otherwise.
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