November 28, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
26°F

Business Beat: Scooter sales soar as gas rises

By MARIA KACIK

Staff Writer

With gas prices soaring this summer, brothers Brett and Rob Campbell say their job is to make sure people don’t go bankrupt.

Last year, the Campbells bought Cleveland Vespa at 24771 Miles Road in Warrensville Heights, a five-year-old business and the largest Vespa dealership in Ohio. The brothers sell motorized scooters that can get up to 80 miles per gallon.

As gas prices rise, Brett Campbell, a Brunswick resident, said people more and more are interested in the scooters.

“There’s a lot of people doing research right now on buying a scooter who wouldn’t have been before. You’ll get 10, 15, 20 or 30 people a day who will walk through the door and ask questions about the bikes,” Campbell said. “They take my brochures like mad. I can’t keep my brochures on the shelves right now.”

Campbell said in March the dealership was above the previous year’s sales by 50 percent. Now, it is doubling last year’s sales of the scooters.

Campbell said they bought the business after the mortgage firm he worked at closed its doors. He explained he and Rob had an interest in motorcycle racing.

“We always had a background in two wheels, but we couldn’t figure out a way to get into the industry with just being a salesperson,” Campbell said.

The two then heard the Vespa dealership was up for sale and they took a chance on the business.

Campbell said running the store came naturally to him and his brother. Rob, a Cleveland resident who is a teacher to handicapped students at Brunswick High School, takes care of the technical side of the business, Campbell said. But he takes care of the customer service, something he learned working in the mortgage business.

“My background is basically making sure people get excellent customer service. And that’s a big deal in the automotive industry because most people are used to getting treated like they don’t know anything or not treated like they should (be),” Campbell said. “So that’s kind of one of my goals: to make sure that when people come here they have a great experience and they’re not pressured to buy.”

Campbell said he’s seeing people from all walks of life coming into his store to find out more about Vespas. Previously, he said, Vespas were more of a luxury and a means of recreation.

In times of $4 a gallon gas, though, they can be more of a way to make ends meet.

“Yeah, I’m getting doctors and lawyers (in the store), but I’m also getting the teachers, the factory workers who are wanting to save money on gas. They don’t want to drive their pickup truck back and forth and get 15 miles per gallon anymore,” Campbell said.

With gas at $4 a gallon, he said, Vespa owners can save enough money on gas in 1½ to two years to pay for the cost of the scooter. “That is if they’re using it pretty consistently,” he said.

The scooters, which come in Vespa and Vespa-owned Piaggio brands, range in price from about $2,000 to $9,000.

The 50-cubic-centimeter engine model of Piaggio costs $1,850, can reach speeds of 40 to 45 mph and has a fuel-efficiency of 70 to 80 mpg.

The 150 cc model can reach speeds of 60 to 65 mph, has a fuel efficiency of 70 to 80 mpg. Campbell said this model is highway-legal, but is best for shorter trips.

The 200 and 250 cc models are highway legal and can take longer highway trips. They start at $4,899, can go speeds of 80 to 85 mph and have a fuel efficiency of 65 to 80 mpg.

And these models are much easier to drive than previous models of the scooter. Each has automatic transmission, allowing drivers to concentrate on what’s going on around them.

“It’s a lot less intimidating for new riders. It’s almost to the point where if you ride a bicycle, you can ride a Vespa,” Campbell said.

As these become easier to ride and gas prices go up, Campbell said the American public’s view of scooters might change. He pointed to Europe, where the Italian-made Vespas are very common.

“I think we’re going to get closer to the way it is in Europe,” he said, noting the highway-incapable scooters of the past did not fit in with American culture. However, he said Vespas can fit in with any lifestyle.

“You’re starting to see it already. Truck sales are down. People are parking them. People are figuring out the amount of money they can save on a scooter and not spending that money on gas.”

Open house
The new Southwest General Brunswick Medical Center and Urgicare will celebrate the opening of its doors with an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The center, located at 4065 Center Road in Brunswick, will offer free health screenings, prize drawings, food and games for children. Physicians will be available for talks and tours of the new facility will be offered.

In addition, the center will be accepting unused medications and mercury thermometers for proper disposal.

The center features a 4,000 square-foot building that can house up to 13 primary care and specialty care physicians.

Cardiovascular, radiology, physical therapy and blood drawing services will be offered at the site.

Also, a new Southwest General Urgicare facility will be located on the campus and open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The facility will offer treatment of minor injuries and illnesses.

Southwest General is partnered with University Hospitals Health System. In addition to the new Brunswick campus, its facilities include Southwest General Health Center in Middleburg Heights, the Strongsville Medical Center and two Urgicare facilities.

Patrick McMahon, vice president of Southwest General, said in a statement, “Approximately 40 percent of Brunswick residents who are hospitalized already come to Southwest General. So we have an earned trust with the community of which we are proud…. We’re excited about the opportunity to provide great care in this part of the county.”

Kacik may be reached at 330-721-4049 or business@ohio.net.