Electric Bicycle Center
It’s been four years since we visited Electric Bicycle Center in Fullerton, California. A lot has changed since then. The one constant, however, is the passionate couple who run the place, Sam and Kanika Townsend.
Sam is a tall, boisterous, fast-talking, wheeler-dealer type of salesman, but without the slime. He exudes the fact that he cares about his customers and wants them to be able to make an informed choice. He hasn’t memorized the sales sheets of his bikes. Instead, he and Kanika annually park their RV someplace 20–25 miles away from the store and ride to and from it every day on different bikes—up to 50 miles a day, for about two weeks a year, putting a 100-pound rider and a 260-pound rider on the bikes. They get real range ideas and real knowledge that they can pass on to customers and advise them on the best bike for them.
They want to know, intimately, how the bikes ride and what their pros and cons are. Townsend admits that this turns many of their bikes into used demo bikes, but it adds value to how he interacts with his customers to get them the best possible bike.
The store is packed, wall to wall, with bikes. It isn’t a huge space, but he normally has 150 bikes packed inside so customers can see all of them, with a few demos out in front. The shop philosophy is to only carry brands that they believe in, and there are six to eight different brands for every category, whether it be folding bikes, mountain bikes, commuter bikes, touring bikes, etc.
Brands they carry include Yamaha, Raleigh, Easy Motion, Bulls, Fantic, Riese & Müller, Tern, BESV, Magnum and many more. We counted at least 20 different brands, from $5000-plus e-mountain bikes to sub-$1000 commuters in every shape, size and color.
They do have a small storage space in the back, where there are anywhere from 25–40 bikes still in boxes. When they do have to assemble a bike, Kanika is the one who assembles it. She’s assembled 95 percent of the bikes in the shop. They have currently one part-time employee, but he leaves in the fall for the military. All day is spent on sales and helping customers, and before and after hours is when they do any maintenance. When customers are in the store, they’ll sometimes assemble them within the hour if the color or size isn’t on the floor.
When we recently paid a visit to the shop, the place was crawling with customers. There were 20 people inside and outside the store, looking at bikes and learning about them. In a half-hour, they sold six bikes. That’s a lot, admits Sam, but on average they sell 6–10 bikes per day, every day. When we first visited here, they were selling $20,000–$30,000 a month in bikes. Now, Sam says it is six figures every month!
The genesis of the company was that it was originally started as Myron’s Extreme Machines in the 1970s, and they sold gasoline-powered scooters, bicycles, skateboards and GoPeds. Sam was an employee and bicycle enthusiast who wound up buying the business from the original owner, Myron, who retired to South America.
Sam kept the business with all the gas-powered stuff, and eventually added in electric bicycles in the 1980s. Yes, that early! He started carrying more and more in the mid-2000s when the bikes started really improving with lithium-ion batteries and real performance. When they decided to move the shop to a larger space, Sam made a decision. He spent 50 percent of his time selling and maintaining gas-powered bikes, etc. for his customers and 50 percent on electric bikes. Most of his sales, $100,000 versus $1.3 million, however, came from the electric bikes.
“The shop philosophy is to only carry brands that they believe in.”
They hated the smell and the mess that come with internal combustion engines, so they made a decision to stop selling or working on them. They sold all of the inventory to someone else and kept an inventory of parts to continue honoring the one-year warranties that came with their bikes. Then, in 2018, they fixed their last bike.
DON’T FORGET THE ACCESSORIES
A woman came in while we were there and bought two bikes. Sam offered her a free helmet and some chain lube, telling her to do three things: charge the battery after you ride, check the tire pressure once a month at least and lubricate the chain. They offer a two-month tune-up and a one-year warranty on bikes, unless the manufacturer offers more.
There are plenty of accessories available to trick out a bike, from racks and baskets to different saddles, a plethora of lighting choices, cables and locks, and more.
They offer pickup and delivery locally as far away as San Diego, depending on the bike. One time they had a few to deliver in San Diego and Oceanside, so they delivered those, met some customers in Oceanside, and rode up the coast and back on a fun ride with some retail therapy and perhaps a cocktail or two along the way.
They deliver, but they don’t ship. You can’t order a bike from them online. You have to physically come to the store to get your bike if you’re far away. They prefer a personal touch and a chance to interact with their customers.
Sam also consults with other companies and bike shops about how they keep up with their inventory and keep their sales so high and how they operate their business so well. Some of it comes down to word-of-mouth advertising; customers have a great experience buying, riding and owning the bikes, and they tell friends and family.
EVERYTHING IS FOR SALE
Not only are bikes and accessories for sale here, the shop is, too. One of the largest electric bike shops in the country and one of the first, with over 30 years’ experience. Sam announced to us that he’s built the business to a highly successful level, and he’s now looking for a buyer. He and his wife are ready to retire, and they want to find someone who will successfully carry the business on. Business is booming, and he wants to go out on a high note.
Electric Bicycle Center is located at 400 E Commonwealth Avenue, Unit 6, Fullerton, CA 92832. Their phone number is (714) 992-5591. They’re open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closed Sunday. Their website is www.electricbicyclecenter.com.
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