■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
When you see folks riding their scooters up and down valley streets and avenues it is a pretty good guess that they were purchased from Charles Berg at his Bob’s Mobility shop at 1200 West Florida Avenue in Hemet.
I decided to motor over to his place of business and find out what all the local talk about scooters is about and boy, did I get an education. I just had to share his story with my readers.
Bob’s Mobility Freedom has been around town for a while. Charles painted an interesting history for me. “My father, Michael Berg was a plumber and had 30 years in the construction industry. I worked for him for eight years until he was t-boned in an accident on one of our local highways. He suddenly could no longer work in the construction business or work at any job requiring any kind of physical exertion. He was suddenly out of a job. Although the family was not left without an income because my mother was an RN, my father is old school. He believes a man should support his family.”
“With a small insurance settlement he thought maybe he would go back to school. Those thoughts were short lived when he read an article about a local business that was up for sale. He came in here to inquire about it. He liked what he saw. He and the owner came to terms and we were back in business. We are a family-owned business. I manage the shop and my wife, just as my mother did with dad, works here with me.”
I noticed his tots had a small tent set up toward the back of his front office. “Yeah. We homeschool our oldest. Our youngest is not old enough for school. Saves money and time.”
Charlie is a happy soul. How is business? I asked. “Business is actually good. In 2014, during the recession, business was slow but this last year we’ve been doing great and so far in 2019 we’re operating on a profitable schedule,” says Charlie.
“Actually we have a large shipment of scooters coming in three weeks. There is a big and growing demand for our motorized scooters in Hemet. We have a second store that we partner with in Palm Springs. Been there since last summer.”
I asked how business is down in the desert to which he responded, “There’s a lot more money out in Palm Springs but we sell a majority of our product here in the San Jacinto Valley.”
Berg originally thought everybody in the valley knew about his store, but found that not to be so. “We get new customers in here every day, most of whom sort of missed the store because it is in a complex dominated by Harbor Freight. We also get customers from the tool shop who tell us that they noticed our scooters displayed in an open spot next door to our office. You just never know where customers will come from. Others tell us that one of our customers referred them.”
Does the Palm Springs store offer the scooters at a higher price? “No. Our prices are the same in both stores,” replied Berg. They are in business to make a living, not a killing.
What is the price range for scooters? “An average scooter sells for $2,000. We are reasonable and competitive compared to other scooter retailers. Our most expensive model is around $2600.”
As we were talking, a middle-aged customer waiting at the counter joined in our conversation. “I’ve had my scooter since April of last year and I love it. I can run my scooter up into the back of suburban and away I go. I truly love it and it saves gas.”
What exactly is the mileage and speed of the scooters? According to Charlie, the $2600 scooter will get 20 miles per hour and will go 60 miles on a charge. Sounds like an ideal form of transportation for running around town or getting to a doctor’s appointment with or without a suburban.
How does Berg manage work and family at the same time? “We commute about 45 minutes from our home every day. I am a family man pretty much 24 hours a day. We get home from work about 6:30 p.m.”
How many days a week? “Roughly six days a week and I usually go out to the Palm Springs shop on Sunday. I am a very busy guy.” Indeed he is.
Does it ever wear him down? “I don’t mind the schedule, but I sometimes like to take time away from business. Not often, but I generally know when I need a rest.”
What does he see in the future? “Actually I always consider by family obligations. If I had more money we’d like to have another baby. Children are a blessing from God. Our main focus is that we take care of our children and we take care of our customers. I know we can’t make everybody happy all the time, but since we’ve been in business we’ve managed to have about 95 percent satisfied customers.”
Berg described himself as a fair minded businessman. “If I have any bone to pick about our scooters it is that health insurance companies will not pay for them. I believe they should because they pay for wheelchairs which can cost up to $15,000 fully equipped. I can recall only a couple of times when an insurance company paid for scooters. Even the V.A. doesn’t pay for them, we try to break through all the red tape but it is a tough go. Until there are some new laws, insurance companies aren’t going to change their attitudes.” The company offers financing without credit checks and payment plans are very low, Berg says.
He believes Veterans Affairs probably has a contract with a corporation, but not with the independent dealers. “Our scooters, with taxes, would never go over $3,000. I’ve had folks save part of their monthly social security checks, come in after a year, make a down payment on a scooter and no longer need to hire a taxi or Uber to get around town.”
I got a sense of neighborhood and good will from Charlie Berg, something that I don’t always see when I do stories about local businesses. He is the kind of retailer that reminds me of “mom and pop” stores whose owners know their customers and are trusted in their word. Those were the good old days, as folks say.
I like doing business with people like Charlie Berg. Maybe you would too. Just sayin’
Rusty Strait is a senior reporter with the Valley Chronicle and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.