By Elyse Archer
Carrboro Commons Writer
Does spending $5 a week on gas sound like pure fantasy? For Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents, itâ€™s now a reality, thanks to Carrboroâ€™s new Scooters Inc.
The scooter store opened at 211 E. Main St. on Aug. 10. Dave Jansen, the storeâ€™s owner, is also the owner of Combustion Cycles, a motorcycle store in Durham.
Passersby might miss the small store if not for the vibrantly colored display of scooters outside. Once inside, a visitor will be greeted with a mini-showroom featuring several top-of-the-line scooters, as well as helmets and apparel designed specifically for scooter drivers. Its urban-chic feel is accentuated by several paintings by local artist Nathaniel Quinn for sale on the walls.
Tonya Stewart, the storeâ€™s manager and a Carrboro resident, has ridden scooters since she was young.
â€œManaging the store was just a natural fit for me,â€ she said.
The scooter store has been running smoothly since its inception, and sales average at about three scooters per week. All age groups, from high school students to retirees, have enjoyed purchasing new scooters. About 70 percent of customers thus far have been women, who frequently find scooters to be an enjoyable alternative to motorcycles, Stewart said.
Stewart cited numerous reasons for purchasing a scooter, whose small size and ease of handling fit in perfectly in a college town such as Chapel Hill, or smaller city such as Carrboro.
â€œTheyâ€™re popular because they take up so little space, and you donâ€™t have to pay for parking,â€ she said.
Riding a scooter is effectively the same as riding a bike, as a license isnâ€™t necessary as long as the speed is capped at 30 mph (all those sold at Scooters Inc. qualify as such). They also donâ€™t require insurance, Stewart said.
Most of the scooters for sale are manufactured by SYM, a brand that originated in Europe and Asia and is now making its way into the United States. Base prices range from $1,899 for some of the most basic models up to $2,290 for the more sophisticated ones. One of the most upscale scooter available is the â€œLatteâ€ scooter, a blend of cream and mocha colors on a larger scooter frame.
When asked about the sudden surge of the scooterâ€™s popularity, Stewart cited the fact that over the past few years scooters have been featured in the public eye more and more frequently.
â€œYou see them all over Hollywood,â€ she said. â€œTheyâ€™re in movies and music videos, and stars are riding them as well.â€
The scooterâ€™s popularity was initially boosted when Vespa began importing its Italian scooters into the U.S. several years ago.
For anyone who is on the fence about purchasing a scooter, Stewart asks them to consider several points: A scooter owner saves money on gas and insurance; parking is easy; scooters encourage less congestion in parking lots and streets; and they use less oil than motorcycles or cars.
The store offers test rides to anyone interested in trying out a scooter. To contact the store, call Tonya at 929-089.