Riding Stella’s success, the company partnered with a factory in Taiwan to create the product that would elevate the company to one of the nation’s top scooter sellers.
Genuine’s flagship brand, known in the U.S. as “Buddy”, is made in Taiwan and was an existing product that did not succeed in Asia or Europe. According to McCaleb, Genuine made modifications, renamed it and started a new life for it in America. In its partnership with Taiwan’s PGO, a scooter manufacturer, Genuine assists in all designs destined for European and U.S. markets.
“Phil and his team understand the scootering community and put together products to serve it,” said April Whitney, managing editor of Scoot! Magazine. “They knew from the beginning the importance of customization, colors and after-market products that a lot of distributors don’t pay attention to.”
The fascination with scooters Genuine exhibits comes straight from its president-scooter-obsessed since he was a teenager.
McCaleb had a Sears Allstate Vespa that he shared with a neighbor at the age of 15, but really found his passion while living in Greece in the early 1980s. He bought an old, wrecked Vespa and with mail-order parts from England and his neighbor’s assistance, he rebuilt it and got it running.
“I rode that thing eight miles each way in Athens traffic,” he said. “It was nuts, but I loved it.”
After coming back to the states in the late ’80s, McCaleb sought to bring back old Vespas because the company no longer kept a U.S. presence. After making trips to Italy to find sources for parts, he put a catalog together to service enthusiasts and collectors interested in restoring Vespas. His business was housed in his condo basement in Edgewater.
“I become president of the condo association because the president controlled the building’s basement,” he said. “That’s where I stored and collected the first scooters and worked every afternoon fixing and restoring old bikes.”
McCaleb’s rebuilt bikes gained visibility in advertisements by Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren that were looking for a European flavor, and Scooterworks became The Place to go for old bikes and parts. The company still puts out a print catalog in addition to maintaining an online store.
Scooterworks USA now stocks 7,000 parts and accessories in a 50,000 square-foot warehouse on the city’s West Side. The company is headquartered at Damen and Balmoral with a dealership next door that is undergoing renovations. Genuine competes in a crowded scooter market that features companies with more resources and smaller companies with more name recognition.