Roland Sands joins retail ranks with new store
Robin Hartfiel, Contributing Writer
April 30, 2012
Filed under Features
Unique items for bike, rider available in ‘test lab’
Former racer-turned-designer Roland Sands expanded his resume by joining the retail ranks with the April 14 grand opening of the RSD Store in Los Alamitos, Calif.
Despite some unseasonable weather for Southern California in the days leading up to the event and overlapping a couple of iconic happenings — including the TrailBlazers annual banquet and the Long Beach Grand Prix on the automotive side — the store opening went off without a hitch, drawing a steady crowd of hardcore motorcyclists as well as plenty of interest from outside the industry.
Given the challenging economy, what made Sands and his team decide that adding a retail store to his custom bike, industrial design, hard parts and recently introduced apparel collection was a good idea?
“We really want to be in touch with our customer base,” he said. “What better way to do that than to open a retail store where we sell our products and talk to the customer every day? We can now hear feedback daily and apply that to what we make and how we make it.”
Interestingly, the retail counter is directly adjacent to the design room, where Sands has his rapid prototype machine. It brings new meaning to being able to apply customer feedback directly to the product. However, as quickly as RSD can implement new designs, the retail store was no overnight idea.
“We have been putting the concept together for about a year, quietly selling some items to people who found us,” he said. “Now we are committed to putting some real effort into making this a great place to outfit your body and your bike with some truly unique items.”
The shop offers a little bit of everything. Complete custom bike builds for surf/skate brand Hurley, actor Mickey Rourke and extreme athlete Travis Pastrana were on display at the grand opening. Other one-off items float in and out of the shop on a daily basis.
“Even before this grand opening, our concepts and lineup of products have been very well received. We knew the customers wanted something different than what has been on the market are out there … and we are just the guys to supply that product,” Sands said. “Our RSD hard parts have experienced solid growth, and while the apparel collection has only been available for about six months, we are doing what we set out to do — making a product that doesn’t exist, keeping quality high and offering it at a good price. It has been exciting, for sure.”
RSD doesn’t intend to compete with dealers around the country who are already stocking RSD hard parts and the apparel lines. Instead, the plan is to walk a mile in their shoes and figure out parts and programs that will be better for all retailers.
“This is a local shop as well as a test lab for our ideas, and we are promoting it as such. We are working with a lot of the local papers and entities like the Army base down the street to get the word out,” Sands said. “Los Alamitos is a business-friendly city, and they’ve been great to work with. We are also next to my hometown of Long Beach, so we’ll be doing some promotions there as well.”
The grand opening festivities featured the local vibe, with a taco vendor and local rockabilly band Signal Hillbillies performing in the parking lot amidst a pantheon of project bikes, such as the Ducati Desmo Tracker that graced the cover of Cycle World magazine. Sand’s father and Performance Machine founder Perry Sands even fired up his 100-year-old Indian for the occasion. Inside, the store featured artwork from local artists in addition to some uniquely RSD touches, such as the chandelier made from a jet aircraft drop tank.
The store is more than just a retail showroom — it is the headquarters, R&D shop, design studio and art gallery all in one. It’s essentially the nerve center for a burgeoning brand empire.
Stemming from his roots as a racer and designer for Performance Machine, Roland Sands has been steadily expanding and redefining his role in the industry. “I was the head of design at Performance Machine, but I was outgrowing my position there about the same time my dad sold the business,” Sands recalled. “I was much more creatively driven and didn’t want to stay in manufacturing.
“In 2005 I started my own brand, RSD, that eventually blossomed into a motorcycle products, parts and apparel design studio. This has given us the opportunity to work with many amazing companies in and outside the motorcycle industry.”
That client roster includes Bell Helmets, Ducati, Dunlop, K&N, Piaggio, Polaris, Toyota, Vance & Hines and many others. And with a retail operation now at the company’s fingertips, RSD will get an even better of idea of what drives the consumer.