MOBILITY ADVOCATES: Co-owners Joe and Shanna Berrer take pride in helping customers find affordable means of transportation.
Business Spotlight: Vroom Vroom
“Do you need a license to ride these things?”
That’s the most common question Kiss My Gas Scooters LLC co-owner Joe Berrer hears at his 2179 S. Campbell Ave. shop.
“These things” refers to mopeds and scooters, and the answer is yes.
“We’ve even had to put up signs in our store to make sure everybody’s informed,” Berrer says.
A European native, the German-born Berrer says he’s naturally a fan of scooters. “I was that guy who showed up to work on a scooter,” he says.
As a former car salesman, Berrer often dreamed of owning a scooter shop by the beach. He knew it could be successful – he’d been trading scooters on the side for years.
His Springfield home, however, was too far from any seaside, so Berrer’s wife and co-owner, Shanna, proposed a compromise.
“One day she looks at me and she says, ‘Why don’t we just open up one in Springfield?’” Berrer says.
It was all the convincing he needed.
“When the opportunity came up to do it, I jumped on it,” Berrer says.
He soon quit his job in May 2011, and one month later, Kiss My Gas Scooters had its official opening at 212 S. Campbell Ave.
“We decided we wanted to be downtown, based on the atmosphere,” Berrer said, though Kiss My Gas Scooters couldn’t stay still for long and just five months later, it expanded into the building next door. “We were downtown for two years and kept growing and growing, and we got to a point where we were starting to raise eyebrows.”
In May 2013, Kiss My Gas Scooters bought its current location and set up shop, sticking to a theme with an Italian boutique twist.
Today, Kiss My Gas sells everything scooter related – from helmets and gloves to parts and services. However, if a customer’s only concern is getting from A to B, they’ve got plenty of options. In addition to mopeds, it retails go-karts, ATVs, dirt bikes and pit bikes, too. Starting at $695, pit bikes, aka miniature dirt bikes, have become popular among teenagers.
“They come in and buy them like hot cakes,” Berrer says.
Mobility scooters also are on the hot list right now.
“People kept calling about mobility scooters. I was turning business away,” Berrer says, noting he decided to dabble in the scooters for those with restricted mobility, but since has carried them less and less.
After all, Berrer jokes, they don’t go nearly as fast.
The top brands for Kiss My Gas’s street legal, 49cc scooters – they also sell 150cc, too – are TaoTao, Bintelli, Wolf, Lance and Genuine, says Berrer. Prices start at $895 and range up to $2,199.
That’s relatively cheap compared with the pricing on a car, Berrer says. Berrer prides his business on helping people get back on their feet by offering them affordable means of independent transportation.
“We were providing transportation to people who could not afford a car,” Berrer says, adding Kiss My Gas Scooters offers layaway and financing through Heights Finance Corp.
“With a credit score of 500 or better, we can get them done,” he says.
The opportunity for cheap transportation suddenly became less appealing to customers, however, when in 2014 City Council approved insurance requirements for scooters.
“That hurt our business,” says Berrer, who spoke during the public meetings.
Kiss My Gas Scooters lost roughly $150,000 in revenue following council’s decision.
“It was stupid,” he says. “People couldn’t afford it. We had helped hundreds of people back on their feet and their credit.”
Despite the regulation change, Kiss My Gas Scooters continues to bring in revenue.
“(Last year), we had total sales just shy of $700,000,” Berrer says. “We’re going for $1 million this year.”
Berrer says it’s entirely possible for the business to reach that mark. A photo on its Facebook page alludes to a step in that direction – a girl’s battery-powered Razor Scooter sits in a rough workshop.
“We have become an official repair center for Razor. Bring them to us,” the caption reads.
“Nobody wanted to touch it,” Berrer admits of the little, purple Razor. “We said, yeah, we’ll do it.”
“I think that is probably one of the most important things you could do, is to keep up with the trends, but not get muddled in them and not get so sucked in that that is the only thing you do,” …
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