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About Utah: Selling bikes the new-fashioned way

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LINDON, Utah County — You could try, but you probably couldn’t find a crummier location for a custom bike shop.

Then again, you also probably couldn’t find one that consistently sells more bicycles.

Welcome to Fezzari Bicycles, Utah’s own home-grown bike company, housed in the industrial side of Lindon in a nondescript building you’d never find unless you already knew it was there. The freeway’s close by, but you can’t see the bike shop from the freeway, there’s no convenient exit, no other retail shops in sight, across the street is a steel company, and there’s a dump at the end of the road.

And yet, day-in, day-out, Fezzari builds and sells anywhere from 15 to 25 bikes a day, both road and mountain. That’s thousands of bikes a year, and every year the number goes up.

What’s their secret?

Their secret is they found a marketplace where it doesn’t matter if you’re on Main Street or a Dead End, where you can wear a bathrobe and slippers to work if you like, where your showroom can look like a frat house, where the world will beat a path to your door even if they can't find your door.

The World Wide Web.

A significant majority — over 70 percent — of Fezzari’s customers never come in the shop, they couldn’t pick the person who sold them their bike out of a lineup, they never see the bike they purchased until FedEx or UPS rings their doorbell.

This type of selling is called consumer direct, and in eight short years Fezzari has turned it into an art form. Through the company website (fezzari.com), online shoppers can pick their bikes from 26 different models — and customize them by supplying information about their age, weight, height and other measurements.

But that’s not all. Once an order has been placed, a Fezzari rep is on the phone, calling the customer direct so he can go over all the details in person and make sure everything is accurate.

When everyone’s happy, the order goes to the bike techs in the back room, who can put together a customized, one-of-a-kind bicycle in an hour and a half to three hours, depending on the model.

Then they pack it in a large cardboard box with FEZZARI on the front and place a note inside, signed by the guy who built the bike.

Fezzari puts the personal in the impersonal Internet.

“That’s our niche,” said Tyler Cloward, Fezzari’s marketing director, on a recent tour of the world’s one and only Fezzari bike shop. “It’s not just selling direct, like Amazon. Our customer service is through the roof.

“When you go online and place an order, you get a call from us immediately. And if you call back, you don’t get a recorded voice saying ‘for marketing, press 1.’ Ring and you get us.”

This hands-on attention, so to speak, has attracted satisfied customers around the world. Fezzari's rate of return is 1 percent.

Price point is Fezzari’s other niche. Its prices are 20 percent to 40 percent lower than other high-end bicycles with comparable components. A similarly equipped Fezzari that sells online for $3,000 or less compares to similarly equipped famous-brand bicycles that sell in the $4,000 range. This is due, Cloward points out, to the elimination of the middleman. Buying a bicycle typically involves a bike shop between the manufacturer and the purchaser. Fezzari is the manufacturer and the bike shop.

The irony is that Fezzari initially wanted to go the traditional bike shop-distribution route as well.

But that proved to be a difficult sell, largely because Fezzari is a new bike maker in a very old game.

The business began 10 years ago when Orem native Chris Washburn, who has an MBA and a law degree from BYU, left his corporate job with Lee Iacocca’s eBike company and set out to create his own brand of bikes.

Chris's son Jordan was 11 years old at the time and came up with the name Fezzari when he blurted it out during a brainstorming session, having no idea, then or now, what it means (Jordan now works for his dad’s company while he’s attending college).

Fezzari. Everyone liked the sound of it, and it stuck.

Chris Washburn built the first Fezzari frames in his garage and sold the first batch of bikes to Costco. After two years, he decided to go in a new high-end, custom-bike direction, which is when he approached the bike shops, and the bike shops turned him away.

So he took his frames — just three models in the beginning — and put them in the building across the street from the steel company in Lindon, built a website and started selling online.

Today, there’s a spacious showroom in that building that displays all 26 Fezzari models, along with tires, jerseys and other bicycle gear.

But it’s no easier to find now than it was then. The simplest way to get there is on the Internet.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays.

Email: benson@deseretnews.com