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Cruiser Culture Drives Coastal Sales

Published November 12, 2008

HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA (BRAIN)—Mike Milano lives in the heart of surf culture. This ocean side town—made famous by Jan and Dean’s 1963 summer hit Surf City—is a Mecca for low-tech, low-cost, high-style beach cruisers.

And the beach goers flock to Milano’s unassuming storefront in a tiny strip mall with a pizza place next door and a 7-Eleven on the corner. But this year his sales are up more than 25 percent and he’s about to bust down some walls in preparation for a $15,000 remodel.

Is he worried about the economy? Yes, but. . .Milano is selling a lot of bikes in the $200 to $700 range and for most consumers it’s a price they willingly pay to be seen on a cruiser in Huntington Beach.

While Milano’s main brand is Giant, it’s beach cruisers that fly out the door. And, as he says with a smile, Christmas comes twice a year—once in December and once again on July 4th. “This is my best year ever,” he said, noting that his 3,000 square-foot store is one mile from the beach. Milano, a former regional rep for Serfas, has owned it for 10 years.

John DeHart, the longtime manager of nearby Bicycle Discovery concurs.

“My biggest day of the year is July 3,” DeHart said. “If you want to get to the beach to watch fireworks, you’ve got to have a bike.”

Bicycle Discovery sells a little bit of everything, from 12-inch kids bikes to fixed-gear Masis to $3,500 Trek road bikes, but much of its sales floor is devoted to beach cruisers, which account for about 40 percent of bike sales. DeHart carries Nirve, Electra and Phat in a variety of colors and styles to cater to the cruiser crowd, who is typically looking for a bike that shows off their personality.

“It’s all style. It’s all fashion. It’s 90 percent what it looks like, what you look like and 10 percent how it rides,” DeHart said. “One brand can’t cover it.”

Taking note of Southern California’s current sunny weather where temperatures are expected to hit 90 degrees or more this weekend, Milano quipped, “We’re apparently not going to have a winter this year.”

And that’s good news for Milano, DeHart and other dealers in the heart of cruiser country.

—Marc Sani and Nicole Formosa

Photo: Cruiser bikes cover the sales floor at Huntington Beach's Bicycle Discovery.

Topics associated with this article: Events

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