Cleveland Moto owner Phil Waters orchestrated this story once before.
Four years ago, he opened an eastside store to complement his longtime . That store called Wickliffe its home, but lived for a brief span because lower gas prices convinced customers to hop back into their cars.
“This is going to be better for us and more stable for us,” Waters said, comparing his new Mentor-based Cleveland Moto shop to the failed experiment in Wickliffe.
“Our Wickliffe store, we took what we could get to capitalize on expensive gas prices.”
Waters opened his Mentor Avenue store two weeks ago as prices began to rise once again. Still, he says the circumstances surrounding his new opportunity are a bit different.
“That area just didn’t have the pull that we get in Mentor,” he said. “Mentor is a totally different level of retail mentality. That part of (Route) 20 in Wickliffe does not get the same retail customer that we get here.”
The other factor working in Waters’ favor is the absence of competitors. In 2008, there were five or six other companies selling Vespa models in addition to Pride of Cleveland. Since the economic downturn, Waters believes “the market corrected itself.” A simple Google search of “Cleveland Scooters” supports that claim, as the first two pages of results are full of listings, reviews and videos related to his company.
Waters will operate Cleveland Moto in Mentor and Pride of Cleveland Scooters in Lakewood as two separate firms. He wants to gauge the severity of the pushback he believes he has experienced from motorcycle enthusiasts for years because his Lakewood shop contains the word “scooter” in its name.
The new store is 2,700 square feet, with just enough space for a showroom and service area. Cleveland Moto also has the first right of refusal for the unit next to it. Waters said he might knock a wall down for expansion after his first summer in business.
His Mentor inventory contains vehicles with prices ranging from $1,700 to $6,000. The store carries vintage Honda and Royal Enfield motorcycles as well as newer Vespa scooters.
Waters’ origins in the market date back to 1990 when he helped launch a Cleveland scooter club. His Lakewood shop opened a decade later. His group has always been active in various bike night events, and he plans to do the same in Mentor. He practically begged the management group at the nearby to host an event the week after he opened, but the weather did not agree. That should change later this month.
“We’ve been getting a lot of people that weren’t aware of what we do,” Waters said of the shop’s early going.
“We’ve always been told we need to have an eastside store.”
This time, Waters hopes his second location sticks around for good.