The sexy, zippy little Italjet Velocifero 50 was the scooter that started it all. If not for the success it had in the USA market we might never have seen Vespa return. The “Velo” (as we called it back then) was powered by a trusty Minarelli 2-stroke motor which allowed it to zip along at about 45mph with no trouble at all. Its styling was reminiscent of the vintage Vespa scooters Sportique was already servicing when the Velocifero became available in 1999. Sportique sold several hundred of these little machines, many of which still grace the streets of Denver.
In the late 1990’s, Malaguti was the little Italian scooter maker that could. A small company in Miami, Florida was set up to import these fashionable little scooters to America and Sportique was among its first dealers. Among Malaguti’s small selection of models the Yesterday was by far the most popular. Unlike the Italjet Velocifero the Yesterday seated two people and it’s faux spare tire carrier opened to offer trunk space enough for a Venti Latte.
A small distributor in Portland, Oregon introduced the Derbi lineup at about the same time Malaguti was shipping scooters from the east coast. Derbi scooters were built in Spain and were noted for their aggressive sport styling. They made no effort to be cute like the scooters coming out of Italy. They brought a whole new twist to Sportique’s showrooms. Among Derbi’s models the Atlantis 50cc was our best seller. It was simple, good looking and fast. It also had the most under-seat storage of any model we offered at the time. The light weight, revvy little Atlantis outran the other stuff, too. It would attain a top speed of almost 50mph.
Aprilia Scarabeo 50
When Aprilia made the announcement that they would enter the USA market in 1999 we went hard after the line. Unfortunately, Aprilia’s primary products were motorcycles. We weren’t interested in selling those. Sportique became on of only a handful of Aprilia “scooter only” dealerships in the country on 2001. Immediately Scarabeo 50’s began flying out our doors. The fact that Scarabeo was styling, fast, affordable and that it was the first modern 50 with 16” wheels made it a hit with buyers. Aprilia’s impressive accessory selection meant that no two Scarabeo 50’s were alike. These machines remain among our favorites. Interestingly, Scarabeo’s shared the same Minarelli engine that the Velocifero and Yesterday both had.
Kymco People 50
When we first spotted the Kymco People 50 it was being sold illegally by a private party out of a residential garage in Littleton, Colorado. One of our customers who had been considering purchasing an Aprilia bought one and rode it to the shop for us to see. Each of us took the People 50 around the block and were simply blown away by its performance, fit and finish and overall quality. We knew immediately that the People belonged in our stores. We contacted the distributor who sent a representative out to close the illegal dealer and get us set up. The rest in history. The People 50 became our best selling scooter ever. Sportique has put thousands of these little machines on the road. We’re proud to have been Kymco’s top-volume USA dealer year after year. Sadly, the People 50 was last produced in 2010. We feel that it was the best 50cc scooter ever built.
Kymco People 150
Sportique sold 50cc scooters almost exclusively in the early years. In order to offer larger models we had to work with the state of Colorado to become licensed as automotive dealers. The Kymco People 150 was the machine that made us decide to tackle that task. It was the first “motorcycle class” scooter we ever sold – and boy did we well them. Like it’s 50cc sister, the Kymco People 150 was wildly popular. People loved its warranty, its reliability and its power. The People 150 is still one of our favorite machines. Kymco ceased the manufacture of this model in 2010.
Vespa ET2 and ET4
The reintroduction of Vespa scooters into America was rumored for several years before it actually occurred. The company employed a PR firm from New York to build excitement and lure prospective dealers.
Vespas parent company, Piaggio would not be content to introduce just its scooters. Rather, it wanted to launch a chain of “boutique” stores that would sell a prescribed Italian “lifestyle”. For dealers to get their hands on the scooters themselves they had to be agreeable to taking on the Vespa apparel and accessory line as well. Vespa branded good were vastly overpriced and almost impossible to sell. Boutique dealers had to allow the interiors of their stores to be designed and outfitted by Piaggio as well with the idea in mind of creating the ideal atmosphere for retailing expensive gear.
We didn’t have pockets deep enough at the time to take on the brand. And, even if we did have enough dough, we saw the “Vespa Boutique Store” model as a loser. And we were right.
After the first Denver area dealership, which was on Larimer Square and owned by a very wealthy real estate developer, hemorrhaged money for a couple of years, the owner finally handed Piaggio USA back the keys to the place and walked away. Piaggio was reluctant to close the Larimer boutique because doing so would create doubt in the minds of other investors all across the country who had poured tens of thousands of dollars into the model. The fact remained, however, that is simply was not going to work. Eventually Piaggio USA struck a deal with a motorcycle dealership to buy the existing inventory and store fixtures.
Sportique was the “real” Vespa shop in Denver and everybody knew it. We provided the majority of the repair work for Vespa owners in Colorado and were eventually offered a dealership in the Boulder market. We understood that scooters were vehicles, not “lifestyle accessories”. Eventually every single Vespa-only “boutique” in the USA went out of business … just like we knew they would.
Vespas early models, the 50cc 2-stroke ET2 and the 150cc 4-stroke ET4 became central to our growth and success despite the fact that other dealership had sold most of them.
Vespa GTS 250
By the time our Boulder, Englewood and Colorado Springs locations were fully equipped as Vespa dealers the ET2 and ET4 were no longer available. It was the venerable GTS 250 that made a splash for us. These scooters were like nothing we had ever ridden before – powerful, smooth and sexy. They attracted a new kind of buyer to Sportique, folks who might have otherwise purchased a motorcycle. The GTS’ highway capability made it a whole new kind of scooter.
Sportique has never been a Honda dealer but we love Honda scooters and we make an effort to offer used ones as often as we can. The little 4-stroke 50cc Metropolitan was the first Japanese scooter to be released that gave the products we sold a run for their money. It was nicely styled, efficient and as reliable as the day was long. We were super jealous that we couldn’t carry them and we saw lots and lots of people buying them. We credit the Honda Metropolitan as being the scooter that taught us about competition. Once it came out Sportique was no longer the only place to buy a scooter. We had to step up our game. Since the Metro was released in 2003, the Japanese manufacturers have increased their offerings dramatically and helped to broaden scooter ownership.
For that reason the Metro qualifies as one of the models that helped us build our business.