By Annika Tomlin
Peter Johnson and Beau Ralphs were at Dan Hawkins’ house admiring his new electric scooter when they urged him to take them for a ride.
“Within 15 minutes, we had been pulled over at least 50 times,” Johnson says. “We couldn’t get down the street without someone blocking us on the sidewalk to pull us into a shopping center and ask us what it was and where we got it.”
In February 2017, the trio founded Tempe-based Phat Scooters, and by July of that year, they had their first 400 production units, says Johnson, whose background is in tech companies, like Ralphs.
“We had over half of them sold via Facebook campaigns, and it just took off from there,” Johnson says.
Johnson came up with the name, a play on the vehicle “fat” tires.
The starting model/kids model is the Phlex, which retails for $1,295. From there is the Sport ($1,995), which boasts the fat tires. The standard and most popular model is the Phatty ($2,195).
“Next is the HD, which adds a bigger battery and a bigger motor and rear and front shocks,” Johnson explains. “Then we have our Golf model, which is just an accessory that attaches to the HD. (Lastly,) we have our Phleet which is our delivery scooter that we do for restaurants and has pedals.”
The company manufactures the vehicles in China, and then they are shipped to Tempe for the final assembly and customization. Scooters max out at $3,650 for the HD Golf.
“Every scooter that goes through is about five to six hours of labor in just finishing touches and customization,” Johnson says. “We have our own battery technology.”
At almost 6-foot-3, Johnson likes the Phatty because of the extra leg room.
“I’m still partial to the Phatty myself. It’s kind of like our baby from the beginning,” Johnson says.
The team is hoping, sometime soon, to manufacture totally in the United States.
“We are really attentive to sending out the best product that we can and we’re actually in the middle of shifting—hopefully by the end of the year—to be a ‘Made in the United States’ product,” Johnson says.
That move will solve the problem of buying products overseas, waiting on delays and trying to rush getting product out in a timely fashion.
“We’ve grown immensely over the last year,” Johnson says. “We’ve tripled in size, and maintaining that level of quality and bringing on additional staff is always difficult to grow that quickly, but we have a really, really good team here. Everyone works as a family and everybody has played a part in making this company successful.”
The company is truly a family affair. Johnson’s father, Rick, is the company’s chief operating officer. Although the pandemic has changed how many companies operate, Phat Scooters is still rolling.
“Initially we were like everybody else,” Johnson says. “We had no clue what this was and how it was going to affect business and how it was going to affect us. We implemented everybody’s guideline standards and we made sure to take everyone’s temperature as they walked in.”
The company also requires its staff to wear masks, sanitize the facility and stay home if they feel ill. Through the hardship, there was still light at the end of the tunnel.
“We had the National Restaurant Association Show coming up in Chicago in May that got canceled and we were going to officially launch the Phleet food delivery scooter there,” Johnson says. “When that didn’t happen, we looked at the restaurant community and they had been hit the hardest because they were forced to kind of shutdown essentially and just do delivery and takeout.”
To help the food industry escape enormous fees from third-party delivery companies, Phat Scooters donated scooters to area restaurants.
“We donated 12 of the units to restaurants and then we really tried to help them with publicity and getting the message across to call them directly and not just use a third-party app and they would deliver,” Johnson says.
Scooters were sent to restaurants in Southern California and in the Midwest, along with ones here in the Valley like Postino, Joyride, Chestnut, O.H.S.O., Miracle Mile Deli and Philadelphia Sandwich Company in Old Town.
Phat Scooters ships within the United States, Canada and Mexico and is looking for sites in Europe. To celebrate its three-year anniversary, the company, which recently added staff, is looking to relocate to a larger facility.
Due to the pandemic there will not be a public celebration of the anniversary, but they still plan on sharing the joy with their followers.
“We have a really cool video that will be launched that shows the growth over the years,” Johnson says. “It’s kind of like a giant video slideshow from how we started to where we are now.”
Phat Scooters, phatscooters.com.