Business Spotlight: EZE Ryders powers up electric bike sales and service in Point Loma
Spring 2020 might not have seemed like the best time to launch a new business, but for Devin Raymond, the timing proved to be perfect.
Raymond was working in the logistics industry in Los Angeles, but when his girlfriend accepted a position at UC San Diego, they moved here at the end of 2019. At the time, his intent was to pursue a logistics job, but 2020 had other plans.
“With the pandemic, a lot of companies stopped hiring,” Raymond said. “I had a side business in the electric bike industry for the past couple of years. ... Effectively, I was selling bikes out of our garage. It was a fun thing to do and a way to make a little extra money. So once the [logistics] jobs dried up last year, I pivoted into working more on this, and then it just so happened that bikes, especially e-bikes, became the hottest-ticket item of the year.”
The bicycle and e-bicycle industry was one of the few that boomed during the coronavirus pandemic. People suddenly had a lot of time on their hands, and with gyms closed as part of efforts to stop the spread of the virus, the need for alternative forms of exercise was high.
“Everyone was shaken out of their normal routines and we had a little more time to stop and smell the roses,” said Raymond, who turned his “side hustle” into EZE Ryders, a new electric bike shop in Point Loma. “Also, we were limited on what we could do to certain activities that are outdoors, that are by yourself, where you can socially distance. Biking is perfect for that.”
“I think people started realizing how functional these motorized bikes could be and that they’re not just a toy, they’re an actual tool for getting around,” he added. “It was an odd confluence of events where the e-bike industry was growing to begin with and the pandemic just threw gas on the whole business. It was honestly difficult to keep up last year with everything going on. We had a lot of problems with production delays and shipping delays, and they’re still continuing, which would probably be the biggest challenge to our business.”
Initially, Raymond’s side hustle involved not only selling bikes wholesale but also manufacturing bikes and helping small businesses do the same.
He manufactured unbranded bikes and sold them at bike shops that could turn them into their own brand.
“That was kind of a unique spin,” he said. “Where everyone else was like, ‘Hey, here’s our own brand,’ I was helping smaller businesses to create their own brand and to really take bike shops, skate shops and surf shops and give them an additional source of revenue.
“I know it’s tough to be a small business, and if I can get a product in the door of your local surf shop that helps them drive a little bit of extra revenue or hire another person, then that’s a great opportunity.”
Raymond continued building his side business throughout 2020 until it was successful enough to become his full-time profession, allowing him to leave the logistics industry behind.
“Why would I bother doing anything else when I have something that I think is exciting, that gives me an opportunity to be an entrepreneur and have my own business? Why would I go work for somebody else when I could be working for myself?” Raymond said.
“[I realized] this isn’t going away, this isn’t a one-time thing, this is happening and it’s happening all over the country and, really, Southern California is the hotbed of activity for it as well. So that’s when I said, ‘Hey, let’s go all in with this thing.’”
Raymond began looking at ways to raise money to open his own shop. He’d been working out of a warehouse in San Clemente, which he visited several times a week to fill orders.
He didn’t qualify for government aid, since that was designed to help existing businesses. So he cleared out his savings and borrowed money from friends and family members to open a store.
Because he lived in downtown San Diego, he wanted a location closer to home.
“I spent months scouring the area looking for a good location,” he said. “I’d literally go on ... day-long bike rides in different areas. … I knew what I was looking for, I knew the kind of space I needed, I knew the kind of neighborhood I wanted to be in. I really wanted to be in a neighborhood where we could take care of the local community.”
He landed at 4051 Voltaire St. in Point Loma Heights, and in mid-January, EZE Ryders officially opened.
Raymond said he likes the community and the picturesque landscape. And being near the beach is a plus.
“Our beach cruisers and the other electric bikes that we do lend very well to that,” he said. "[They’re] kind of the perfect tools to take full advantage of a beach community.”
Raymond said customer service and expertise set EZE Ryders apart from online bike sellers.
“You might be able to get a bike from one of these online companies shipped to your house. Maybe you save some money on doing it, maybe you don’t, but at the end of the day, there’s really no one there to help you,” he said.
Also, he said, the bikes need special care and adjustment — services you can’t always find if you buy online.
EZE Ryders provides rentals and repairs on electric bikes and sells a variety of brands, including its own custom line called Coastal Cruisers. Best-sellers include motorized beach cruisers and more unique products like OneWheels, which are motorized, one-wheeled skateboards.
With EZE Ryders flourishing, Raymond has embraced living and owning a business in San Diego.
“It’s really nice to have the opportunity to move here and to start a business here and be part of the community. ... It’s kind of like a dream come true,” he said.
Raymond says the store is planning an outdoor opening event on Sunday, March 21. For more information about EZE Ryders, visit ezeryders.com.
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