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Summer sun drives scooter sales

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As farmers have nervously watched crops and prayed for rain in the dry summer heat, St. Lawrence County’s recreation industry has been taking in the rays – and the dollars. Some dealers are reporting an increase in scooter and motorcycle sales.

“A lot of people have been looking for used bikes,” said Ken J. Hill, owner of Route 68 Sales and Service in the town of Oswegatchie. “Everybody’s got this Walmart mentality. They want it cheap.”

Mr. Hill focuses on selling used motorcycles and fixing those already on the road.

And business, especially bike repairs, is good. He credits a combination of sunny weather and rising gas prices.

“People have been on the road every day for two months,” said Mr. Hill, who works on an average of 15 bikes a month – slightly more than last summer.

Ed E. Sharlow, owner of Sharlow’s Service Station in Waddington, noticed the trend.

After leaving the business in 2010, Mr. Sharlow began importing scooters from China again last month.

He said scooters have been seen by many as a more comfortable alternative to motorcycles.

Mr. Sharlow said he has mostly sold scooters to people over age 60 who are looking for something cheap to get them around town. “Cheap,” he said, is the operative word.

“They are not as good as a Honda,” admitted Mr. Sharlow of his Chinese imports, which he does not sell with a warranty.

But the 49cc scooters he sells, which don’t go more than 30 miles per hour, run about 80 miles to a gallon of gasoline and don’t require a motorcycle license to operate. With a price tag of only $795, they have been sought after for easy, around-town travel, he said.

Favorable motorcycling weather has tempted Lynn L. Blevins, owner of the Blevins Bros. Chrysler and Dodge dealership, Ogdensburg, to consider opening a motorcycle dealership in the former Woods Farm Market building on Route 68 that the dealership is in the process of buying.

“Anytime you get sunshine you sell more motorcycles,” said Mr. Blevins, who currently contracts with Massimo scooters in Texas to import Chinese scooters priced at about $1,300 for a 49cc model.

“They sell very well,” he said of the scooters, “about 12 per year.”

If they decide to open up a motorcycle dealership, it would have to wait till the spring, Mr. Blevins said.

“You’re at the mercy of the weather,” he said.

Not all dealers are feeling the fever of summer sales, however. Michael A. O’Geen, owner of Moody River Custom Cycle in Waddington, says this year’s sales have been about the same for him.

Mr. O’Geen sells roughly 20 Harley-Davidson bikes per year along with parts and accessories.

He said he believes a poor economy is dampening what could otherwise be a vigorous sales climate.

“Whether people are watching the economy, Wall Street or Europe, the European situation, I don’t know,” said Mr. O’Geen.

Mr. Sharlow said he is happy to pick up the slack.

“There’s a market for everything,” he said. “Everyone else has quit, so I’ll handle them (scooters) as long as people buy them.”

So far, it’s paid off.

“We’ve sold probably a half dozen in a month,” Mr. Sharlow said.

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