The dealership sells fun, but it preaches safety and environmental health. “I started as a small car, motorcycle lot back in 2004,” said owner Jae Landreth. “We did everything from dune buggies to ATVs to motorcycles, cars, anything with a title. We didn’t find a whole lot of satisfaction in that. I wanted to do something that I felt was making some sort of positive impact on the community. I wanted to focus on fuel efficient, fuel-free transportation, meaning scooters and electric devices.” The dealership carries Vespa, Piaggio, Hyosung, Genuine, Schwinn and Aprilia. It also carries some preowned motorcycles and ATVs. “Vespa is what gave us the initial positive reputation, reliability and dependability,” Landreth said. “We bought integrity and then we had to earn it. Now we’ve earned it.” Fineline Vespa does a lot with the local college, Kansas University, charities and motorcycle training.
“People buying scooters over the Internet,” Landreth said. “People will buy these scooters on the Internet, and they get a negative idea of what the scooter is all about because they put it together. They don’t have the mechanical skills to make sure everything is put together correctly. Then they have small issues with it, and all of a sudden the entire business gets a bad name.”
Genuine scooters are the most popular at Fineline Vespa, especially the Buddy models. Landreth notes the Piaggio Fly 50s also do well.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
More people are buying scooters, says Landreth. The dealership’s customer base used to be about 70 percent students from Kansas University, but now that number has changed to about 50-50.
PARTS AND SERVICE
To ensure the dealership has enough parts for all types of scooters, Landreth says they went as far as taking parts from hundreds of brand new scooters. “We took whole scooters apart. Even for people who didn’t buy from us, we want to make sure we have parts for everyone,” he said. “It might be $100 more to buy from us rather than over the Internet, but it’s worth it because they can rely on us to help them out if they need anything.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Complete with a cape and truck, Fineline Vespa introduced Vespa-man to scooter owners in the Lawrence area. “We’ll ride around campus shouting, ‘Save the world from emissions and big oil,’” Landreth said. “We also come to anyone’s rescue if their scooter broke down or has a flat tire or something. We do that for everyone regardless of whether they bought from us.” The dealership works a lot with Kansas University. “We give away scooters to the college twice a year and T-shirts whenever they have their big orientations,” Landreth said. “That works well. We’re also working with the parking departments.” With a young customer base, Fineline Vespa has a strong presence on Facebook. Landreth says they have about 200 fans. Another way the dealership supports its customers is through safety courses. Landreth says they sponsor a motorcycle training school, and they encourage everyone to take it, even if they’re buying a 50cc and don’t need a motorcycle permit.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Working directly with the colleges,” Landreth says referring to what’s worked best for Fineline Vespa. “We donate scooters to Habitat for Humanity every other year and breast cancer awareness. I think donating scooters is the best way to get involved with the community. There needs to be a lot more people on two wheels, and we’re trying to influence as many people as possible to have an impact on emissions.”
— Karin Gelschus