Scooters in Texas? If you’re Plano Kawasaki Suzuki, you love scooters — so much so that a lot of the dealer’s floor space is devoted to them. However, the dealership, based in Plano, Texas, just north of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, also sells sport bikes, touring bikes and all-purpose standard road bikes.
While the decision to carry so many scooters may sound surprising, it’s a fitting strategy for an urban area. Texas may be known for wide open spaces, but the Dallas/Fort Worth area is increasingly urban, and urbanites find scooters to be the perfect vehicle to get around town.
“Everybody buys scooters,” says AJ Meisel, Plano Kawasaki Suzuki’s general manager. “They buy them as gifts. They buy them as transportation. They buy them as a RV adjunct. I use my scooter to buy groceries on Sunday. They are efficient, reliable transportation.”
Plano Kawasaki Suzuki sells three brands of scooter: Vespa, the iconic Italian brand with an electric offering; Piaggio, a plainer and less expensive marque; and budget-friendly Genuine. The dealership will also happily customize any of them. On display in the dealership is one of Meisel’s custom scooters painted Mary Kay pink with a Louis Vuitton seat. “I’m a Texas girl,” says Meisel, “and we like to have fun.”
Meisel started out at the F&I desk in another dealership, and by way of smarts, leadership potential, sheer determination and true grit, worked her way up. Along the way, she landed at Plano Fun Center, established in 1993 with Suzuki and Kawasaki as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). In 1999, Plano Fun Center moved to its current location and changed its name to “Plano Kawasaki Suzuki.” Like the rest of the motorcycling world, the Plano dealership went through some tough times between 2009 and 2013, but survived and grew. Meisel’s husband, Jason, came on board to help out in 2015.
Meisel has always been interested in scooters. When the Dallas-area Vespa dealer decided to retire in 2019, Plano Kawasaki Suzuki bought the scooter business. The dealership took on not only Vespa but also Aprilia and Moto Guzzi from the Piaggio Group that includes Vespa and Piaggio scooters. The dealership also started selling Genuine Scooters around the same time.
At present, Plano Kawasaki Suzuki has 20 employees. Staff turnover is low, due to excellent employee relations. “We take care of people,” Meisel says. “When we take care of our staff, our staff takes care of customers. We have learned to find out what people individually need — time off, a reasonable salary, perks — and we give them that. When people get what they need, they stay happy. We treat people with dignity and respect.”
Happy, engaged employees make for happy customers. “Hands down best service department in the DFW Metroplex,” says one reviewer. “I had been trying to get a deal done on an Aprilia for a while and now so happy that I have one. Super job — keep up the good work!” says another review. Meisel guards the shop’s online reputation by regularly monitoring reviews and especially checking on negative ones to see if there is a situation that needs to be rectified.
Plano Kawasaki Suzuki is known for Texas-sized events as well. “We have eight or nine big events every year,” Meisel says. “We host ‘Just Scooters’ and invite all the scooter clubs. We have two or three demo events per year. Our customers are a very diverse group of people, and we give everyone a reason to come to the dealership.” One event that appeals to almost everyone who rides on the street is ‘Bikes and Coffee,’ which takes place the first Saturday of every month. Riders of all kinds are encouraged to join, get a cup of coffee and kick tires.
The people who walk through the doors of Plano Kawasaki Suzuki range from 18 to 65 years of age and include a lot of women. Meisel estimates that half the scooter purchasers are female, as are about 15% of the purchasers of all other machinery.
“Our staff is trained to work well with women,” she says. “We recognize any person, whether male or female, who walks in the door. We host women’s riding groups, especially Lady Sportbike Riders. This group sets up their own track days and we support their mission. We also go to the track on a regular basis.”
Although the Plano shop does sell Kawasaki 4x4s and jet skis, in addition to sponsoring an off-road racer, it does not concentrate on off-road vehicles. Meisel points out that the area is predominately urban, with few nearby off-road riding areas, and it makes more sense for the dealership to concentrate on what will sell locally, such as sport bikes and scooters. The busy shop floor indicates that they have made the right decision. “We are one of the top 15 in the nation for Kawasaki,” she says.
Other initiatives to keep the sales and parts department humming include a loyalty rewards program, intended to encourage repeat business; a website with accessory catalogs posted and online shopping enabled; and a secure, online financing application. The Facebook page is updated on a regular basis with product videos, photos of customers, seasonal displays and event announcements. One recent event was a scooter poker run. All the events and special displays encourage customers to see the dealership as a social center, a place that they want to return to often.
The Plano Kawasaki Suzuki website also includes a virtual tour, which includes some of the more unusual items in the shop, including a seasonal display with pink roses and Meisel’s custom pink Vespa. More seriously, there are very comprehensive posts on the site, intended to educate new riders and point them in the right direction.
Like other dealerships, Plano Kawasaki Suzuki got an influx of new riders during the pandemic and is concerned to keep them safe and riding confidently. The essays go into mental preparation, the need for proper rider education, safety gear and the right bike for each new rider. A phone number for locating a rider education venue is prominently posted.
When asked about the future, Meisel says she sees continued growth for Plano Kawasaki Suzuki. “We are staffed to grow and want to grow to serve the area,” she says. “We want to stay humble and serve our customers.”
Plano Kawasaki Suzuki
3405 N Central Expressway
Plano, TX 75023
OEM: Kawasaki, Suzuki, Vespa, Moto Guzzi, Aprilia, Piaggio, Genuine Scooters
Aftermarket: Western Powersports, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Vespa accessories