All photos by Patrick Martinez
If there’s one thing that has been really good for BMX, it has been the shops that fully support BMX 100%. One of those shops would be Kings Rideshop out in California. This BMX only shop has been going strong for nearly a decade, and in that time it has grown and developed a scene that is really important to help keep this lifestyle of ours going strong.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of cool things come from Kings Rideshop and figured it would be a good time to catch up with the owner, James Collela, to find out a little bit about him and what the shop is all about! Let’s get into this to see what he had to say!
Name: James Colella
Location: Palm Desert, CA
Years riding: Almost as long as I remember.
What was it that first got you into BMX? Any early memories come to mind?
I always rode bikes; I can still remember building crap ramps with my brother and friends when I was around 5. I was always into BMX at some level; I rode and raced mountain bikes too for years. My friends always rode BMX which made me want to, also the simple type of bike and style bmx creates really had a draw on me.
An early memory was when I was 5 my brother and friends would haul ass down the street into our driveway and just try to slide the craziest skid possible. It looked so fun and I’d do it on my sweet little red mx250 16”, but it had a coaster brake so I just felt like it wasn’t as cool without the hand brake. I hopped on his chromed out 1500 and charged down the street to look down to realized my stubby fingers couldn’t reach the lever. When I looked up all I saw was the chrome bumper of the 1970’s classic Chevy Caprice parked in the front yard. Plowed into that and woke up in the bathroom with my Mom and Aunt cleaning me up. So basically BMX was beaten into me early on, haha!
When did you start thinking you wanted to own a shop? Didn’t you kind of come up on an opportunity?
Yeah, I was working at a shop and the owner was going to shut it down, I asked about buying the shop from him instead. After some negotiation, a whole other story, the shop was half mine on May 19th 2004. The other half belonged to a partner who put up the cash. The partner never had an active role in the business and took a buyout in 2008. I was young and should have thought all this through better at the time. I learned a lot about business and life during those years. You really can’t ever know enough though about either.
Was Kings Ride Shop the original name or did that change when you took ownership? Was the original shop a BMX shop, or did you change that as well?
The shop was originally “The Bike Business”, which is pretty corny. I changed the name to Kings Rideshop because it’s made more sense for a few reasons. The first 4 years in business I put an emphasis on BMX but was in a small town and the only way to stay going was to do everything. I sold and repaired every type of bike. I didn’t mind it for a while because I started working at a shop at 15 so it was pretty normal. I wanted to just do BMX, I thought then and still do now, that BMX has the most room to grow in retail. I have friends in every aspect of cycling though I made while racing mtb’s and selling every type of cycling product that I still talk to. So I will still order in parts for other types of bikes and enjoy working on the nice ones a bit just to keep up on technology. Don’t get it wrong though we only stock BMX, have to keep it dialed like that.
Aren’t you guys coming up on the 10 year anniversary for the shop? What are a few of the biggest differences between when you first started and today?
Yeah 10 years this coming May, doesn’t feel that long. Big differences are from day 1 til now is…
1. The desert has a BMX scene that kills it.
2. BMX only brands have a huge chunk of the complete bike market.
3. Personally I have a much clearer vision now of what a shops role is in BMX and I am able to focus on that much better.
4. I do miss when style was better than tricks. Don’t get me wrong some of the tricks and lines are amazing now but style is what gets me stoked. I feel like if you are going to learn anything you should take some pride into making it dialed in every way.
Has the location of the shop changed at all over the years? I feel like you probably have grown pretty heavily over the last decade?
Yes, I have been in 3 different locations. The original shop spot lasted around 2 years, 2nd was really close to the first, place was big but still the small town struggle for another 3 years or so. When the economy took the plunge was when I decided I needed to make a move or quit. In October of 2009 Kings moved to Palm Desert which is the center of the Coachella Valley. We are located half a block from the mall, 1 block from El Paseo which is like the Rodeo Dr. of the desert, super high end retail and dining. We also are a couple blocks from a college, middle school, high school and the local skatepark. The shop is dialed, super clean, nice building, good scene, with loyal and new customers coming in all the time. This location has been able to support our BMX only shop. I feel like the shop belongs to the scene, they make it what it is through their support.
BMX shops are still a pretty new thing, especially in the bicycle industry in general. We have seen a lot of shops pop up in just the past few years. How important do you feel BMX shops are to the industry?
BMX is its own thing, it doesn’t fit in with other types of cycling. The comparison is next to nothing. BMX shops can give BMX strength in so many ways. Brands struggle to grow and I believe it is because the retail outlet for BMX is weak. Who wants BMX to be represented in a small area in the back of a bicycle shop? Not me. BMX deserves more. The struggle is really to create strong retail stores in populated areas that can sell through BMX softgoods and hardgoods by having a fully stocked inventory. It is challenging to start new businesses and for BMX brands to pull away from non-bmx only shops. You have to find people and brands dedicated to BMX retail growth who are smart enough to work together at every level. It’s easy to envision a BMX shop in every major metropolitan area that is supported by brands and brands supported in return without question of dedication (meaning you build brands and shops together, benefit from each others work). The reality though isn’t that easy, it’s difficult to create a relationship with multiple brands/distros and shops without one feeling neglect and searching for other opportunity. With that being said, a network of BMX only shops have the potential to change the game in my opinion. In my experience Kings helped kick start the scene here, but I’d imagine areas that have a scene just need the right people to open a BMX only shop that could thrive. Hearing about new BMX only shops opening is awesome, I hope it continues.
There’s been a quite a big discussion about the whole economics side of BMX lately and it has stirred up some pretty interesting opinions. From a shop owners perspective, what are your thoughts on things? Do you feel like things are turning back around?
There have been some rumors stirring about BMX sales slowing, honestly that hasn’t been the case here. I think if sales are slowing you have to look closer into your own operation and try to make appropriate changes. It’s not always as easy as seeing certain products collecting dust on the shelves, but I think every business owner/operator knows what is hurting and what could be helping. I know it’s impossible to see the future but you make it what it is. If you want BMX to do well it’s like anything else, you have to work at it.
The industry has seen a huge influx in BMX brands pop up with the growth over the years. What are some of the key brands you guys support and sell? Care to share why this is important to you?
It’s crazy how many brands have popped up, even private label style brands for lower end parts on complete bikes selling parts aftermarket. I stick to a few basic rules as far as brands I stock…
1. They have to be a BMX only brand, they aren’t a sub division or make road or mountain bikes or are tied into that. Brands like that can never fully support BMX only shops.
2. The brand shows interest in being more of a business partner to work together, like supporting shop riders, holding team events, providing additional promotion… Just open to working towards the same goals.
3. I like spending money with my friends, I’ve had sales reps I’ve worked with for years, I support my friends because I know they will do the same.
4. Are proactive in growing BMX by creating events and giving back.
I stock mostly, CULT, Animal, Volume, Demolition, Odyssey and have been bringing in more Profile lately. I do get other brands in and they are good brands but I make sure the brands I listed have the majority of space in Kings.
I know you have a real close relationship with Cult. A lot of your team riders are involved in their program as well. How would you say having a close tie like that with a brand has helped with the way you do things?
Yeah, shouts to Cult. Steven Mack and Josh Alderete ride for Cult, David Aleman gets some support here and there too. It does change the way I do things, our relationship is a great opportunity for Steven, Josh, Kings, Cult and our scene. I am able to work closely with everyone involved to get the best results out of day to day operation, special events, and bigger projects. Steven and Josh have been working on their parts for $mall Talk as well. Having them featured is going to really put our scene out there and show how solid BMX is here at Kings. That shows Cult is a brand that gets behind BMX, I just think the guys at Cult share the same passion we do for BMX and its future.
You had the collaboration frame with Cult a little while back. How well did that do? Do you have any other collaboration projects with them or any other brands in the pipeline you can tell us about?
The collab frame went really well I think, we wanted it to be a special item to own. I think we made 19; I got one, Steven and Josh. The rest we sold to riders, who support Kings to the fullest, can’t even say how amazing those guys are. We are talking about another collab colorway that should hit in plenty of time for the holidays.
Back to the team. Who is all on your team these days? I know this is kind of forward, but would you say any of these guys wouldn’t be riding if the shop didn’t exist to bring the scene together?
Steven Mack, Josh Alderete, Israel Green and David Aleman are my main guys. I help out other local guys here or there depending on needs. These guys are more than just good riders, they are good people who understand how being part of the team works, they love the shop and do everything to support it the best they can. As far as them not riding, that’s a good question. I’d confidently say the shop brought the scene together and that has opened up opportunities for them. Honestly though these guys ride cause it’s what they do, just for the love.
I feel like I saw somewhere that you guys were working on a full-length DVD. Is that still happening? How are things going with it? Do you guys have any big trips or anything for that?
We are working on a DVD. It’s going to be about the local scene. I feel like people would be stoked to know what goes on with our scene, focus the light on what we do here. It will have parts from the team as well as clips of local shredders, riders that visit the valley and going to get a few clips from our guy Nick Strickler from up by San Francisco as well. The majority of filming will be here in the valley, the area has a ton of spots that are untouched. We are still in the early stages but it is coming together. Working behind the lens will be Patrick Martinez, Dusty Helm and Matt Wittig. Everyone wants to make the DVD and is as excited as I am about it. We are all friends so it will make for a good time and that vibe should shine through.
You guys are always working on something to get the local scene stoked between teams coming through, jams and everything, right? What do you guys have planned for the near future? Anything you want to get the word out about?
Yeah doing events is a big part of Kings. We have been so lucky to have some of the best riders come through. As far as future plans, all I can really say is Black Friday is Dak Friday here at Kings. Don’t miss out!
So let’s say somebody is looking to start their own shop? What are some of the most important things you think people need to consider before they get into it? I feel like there need to be certain motives behind doing a shop that doesn’t include getting rich.
Remember that old Disney movie “Blank Check”? A guy runs a kids bike over and gives him a blank check the kid goes and cashes for a million bucks, I am pretty confident a similar situation would be the only way to get rich while owning and working a BMX shop, add a few more zeros of course.
Obviously a person should consider many things and everyone leads a different life but the big things to consider are money, time, and what your goals are with the business. I’d say have enough money to represent your shop and a couple brands well. It may be a while until you turn any profit. Expect to spend every moment you have working, it’s way more than just unlocking the door. I spend probably 70 hours a week or more at the shop and countless more working on shop stuff outside the shop. I even have the shop calls forwarded to my cell. It’s not a job, you are never off work, it is what you do. Be self-motivated. Figure out what you want from the business, getting rich won’t be in the cards so it has to be gratifying to you in other ways.
It’s clear that running a shop is a pretty heavy work load. Do you still find much time to ride these days?
Riding keeps me sane, haha. I ride at least 4 days a week. Every chance I get. Having a shop is one thing and riding is another. I remember when I first started it was so hard to stay at the shop when guys went to ride, and it hasn’t changed, I still want to go.
Do you ever get burned out at all? What are some things you like to do to help keep things fresh?
I do get burned out on certain tasks. My wife is really involved in the shop too so that helps a ton but I get edgy sometimes, but usually catching a date night with my wife, dinner with friends, or just riding with the crew reminds me I’m lucky to do what I do.
Are there any plans of expanding in the future? Another shop? Anything like that?
I do not have any exact plans on expanding right now, just improving on what we do here already. When the time is right maybe I’ll make some big changes.
How can people keep up with Kings Ride Shop these days? Are you on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all of that? What’s your website?
We got that
Facebook- Kings Rideshop
What are your hours, location and everything?
73-168 Hwy111 #101
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Open: 10-7 Monday – Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday
Would you trade what you do for a living for anything else in the world?
Kings is loved by the scene, I’m proud to be a part of that.
Do you have any shout outs or thanks?
Thanks to everyone who supports Kings Ride especially over the years, our customers are our friends. My wife Jess, My family, Steven, Josh, David, Israel, Patrick, Dusty, Matt, Robbie and everyone at Cult, Veesh, Nick Benson, Matt Coplon, Dylan Ambrose, Kevin Rust, Aaron Gwin, Roger Romero, Sean Heimdal, Ron Hoffman, Slamuels130 and of course Kurt for this interview. I’ve got a lot of good friends who are always down for Kings.
Anything else you want to say?