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From down and out to back in business

BBC for Web

Dave McMahon, Senior Editor
May 21, 2012
Filed under Features, Top Stories

I couldn’t believe it when I learned that Big Bear Choppers were back in production. The chopper market was dead, right? Companies like Big Dog and American Iron Horse — and, most recently, Big Bear — fell victim to the Great Recession, and the market had moved on to smaller customization outfits, right?

Not so fast. In what could become one of the quintessential American success stories, Big Bear has apparently been pulled up by its bootstraps by an international investor and is back in the chopper business.

You remember Big Bear. Founded by Kevin and Mona Alsop as a V-twin service shop in 1998 in Big Bear Lake, Calif., the company in 2002 became a powerhouse chopper manufacturer and sold completed cycles to dealers. Big Bear at one time had $25 million in gross sales, Kevin told me in a phone interview earlier this month. In August 2007, Big Bear built 100 bikes. After a losing battle against the economy, the company closed in November 2011, a victim of extended flooring. The closure left dealers and consumers alike with money into their bikes, but no product to show for their cash down. On May 4 of this year, Big Bear filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in California, with more than 325 creditors listed on the filing.

Simon Scott, who had been a customer of Big Bear Choppers for a year prior to the company’s closure, has come to the rescue. Scott purchased the company’s brand, intellectual property, tool and proprietary parts and design in December, completing the entire purchase in April. Scott, who owns Rage Hard Choppers in Indonesia, hired Kevin as the general manager of a new production facility for Big Bear Choppers in San Bernardino, about 50 miles west of Big Bear Lake. 

“After we had to shut down, I called every single customer, including Simon,” Kevin Alsop said. “He called me back a few days later and said ‘If you get it to bankruptcy, I’d be interested in starting a new company and buying the assets from the bank. He called the bank, they worked out the details and away we went.”

Scott, in fact, had 20 bikes on order himself when the business ceased operations. Scott had purchased one bike from Big Bear Choppers before deciding to go all-in with the larger order, based on the popularity of the bike in Indonesia.

“We had about 30 bikes that were on order from customers when we closed. About 25 people didn’t get their bikes unfortunately, and there were about 40 bikes that dealers ordered but didn’t get,” Alsop said.

Scott is eager to build on the promise of the brand, which he has seen thrive in many countries.

“The brand is strong and the bikes are simply the best designed, best engineered and stylish bikes out there,” Scott said in a statement. “Together that is a powerful formula for growth and sustainability in any market. All that was needed was vision, hard work, a solid business plan and some working capital to get the wheels turning at full speed again. Loyal customers and dealers worldwide now, once again, have an option when looking to purchase a true American made motorcycle. That option is the new Big Bear Choppers by Rage Hard Choppers Inc.”

The husband and wife team of Kevin and Mona Alsop, founders of Big Bear American Made Choppers, have landed on their feet after closing the company in 2011 and reopening thanks to an investment by new owner Simon Scott.

Alsop believes the new venture will work with a newly streamlined manufacturing environment. The chopper production market, Alsop said, had reached about 15,000 bikes per year at its peak. “Now it’s down to six,” Alsop said. “Nobody’s in business except for us.”

Alsop was awaiting the delivery of engines the day after our conversation, when he offered some insight on the company’s past, and its future.

“People still want the bikes. There are people calling here every single day saying they really want this or that,” Alsop said.

Alsop said Big Bear bikes will maintain their retail price of the $30,000 range, with its entry-level Bare Bones fetching $28,500 at retail. A leaner manufacturing model will initially show annual production of four built bikes and four kits, or frames, tanks and fenders. New production models are currently in design at the company’s new 10,000 square-foot facility, which is about half the size of its predecessor.

“We’re basically looking at building four bikes a month to break even,” Alsop said. “Our game plan is to start to clean up the image. There are some people that lost money and work through the bankruptcy. As with many businesses during this time, no matter how hard Mona and I tried, we just could not get out from under it in time to save the company. It broke our hearts, as Big Bear was our lives and the company meant so much to so many people. However, now with the new owner, the Big Bear Choppers brand is able to move forward in a much better position than before. Now we are proud to say Big Bear Choppers will be one of the brands that will help drive the industry forward.”

Plan to see Alsop and his new boss aboard Big Bear choppers in Sturgis this summer.

“Eventually we’ll build back the dealer confidence and the consumer confidence,” Alsop said. “There are dealers that Big Bear Choppers owed money to, that we still owed money to, and we’ve already made deals with some of these dealers, like ‘We owe you $10 grand. If you order another two or four bikes, we’ll give you a discount to make up for what you lost. Dealers are starting to do that.”

And with dealers in places like the Ukraine, Switzerland and Australia already adding to their order lineup, Big Bear Choppers is taking an American V-twin success story international.

Comments

15 Responses to “From down and out to back in business”

  1. Jim Kester on May 23rd, 2012 8:58 am

    Happy to hear that Kevin and Mona are making a comeback. I have always liked the BBC line of bikes. Welcome to San Bernardino CA

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  2. Doc Robinson on May 24th, 2012 8:00 am

    Well hopefully Kevin and Mona can clean up the image of Big Bear Choppers over time. It will be a long and hard slog but the styling of the various models is still pretty cool today. There are those who say that fat tired choppers are dead but there are many more who still desire them. This is motorcycling, not a bloody fashion show.

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  3. Fred on May 26th, 2012 3:09 pm

    The alsops are criminals. do NOT do business with these people. We that have been cheated, hope that justice will be done and that nobody will be burned by them anymore.

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  4. Bo Zack on May 27th, 2012 1:05 am

    I can’t believe anybody would glorify these scumbags. After ripping off countless people including wire fraud for overseas purchases, the audacity to tout themselves as “back in business” is sickening.
    Apparently Doc Robinson’s on Mona’s teet here and on Cyril’s blog.

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  5. Jim Kreizinger on May 29th, 2012 12:40 pm

    Kevin Alsop is a lying, cheating crook in my opinion.I sold two of my bikes to finance my dream bike (Bear Bones) after visiting B.B.C. in late October. On Nov. 14th I wired $10,000 of my hard earned $ for a deposit on my build, A week later the E- Mails, phone calls ended, My money gone now with Kevin hiding behind bankrupcy.I never recieved a phone call from Kevin as he stated in this article.Justice will be served one way or another,Watch yor back Kevin, As you know, I am not the only one you screwed.For anyone out there wanting to do business with, RAGE HARD DON’T !!!!!!

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  6. Lyn on June 6th, 2012 12:39 pm

    I hope that people who have been screwed by BBC will at least put a call into or send a claim and a letter to the trustee in the bankruptcy filing by BBC and encourage them to investigate kevin and mona for fraud. How does it work that an “alleged” creditor, Simon Scott could buy assets including the name, the trademarks, the intellectual property, equipment, etc and kevin and mona are continuing on with their business as usual, manufacturing big bear chopper models, planning their ride the mountain event, keeping their BBC website and facebook? WTF?

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    J. George Reply:

    You are absolutely right Lyn, I’m not even an interested party, but I research controversial issues like this and I don’t see how this can be. I would tell anyone who lost money the first time around to file a new claim letter, print out and attach a copy of the the above article from power sports.com and other available online sources and send it to the Federal District Court Bankruptcy Trustee who did their filing for further investigation.

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  7. Michael Evans on June 15th, 2012 1:33 am

    Those who criticize the Alsops’ obviously don’t know anything about business. Unfortunstely, Obama didn’t include them in his $768 Billion stimulous plan, like he gave to GM, AIG, JP Morgan Chase and other companies. But you all have valid complaints, you paid your hard earned money and didn’t get what you paid for…….yet. It’s gonna take time, but I’m confident they’ll make it good, somehow. Look at what they’re offering their dealers, maybe they can do something similar for you? Work through this. Owning a quality Big Bear Chopper will be well worth the wait.

    Lovin’ my 2009 DA Pro Street

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  8. Denis Yarosh on June 18th, 2012 3:01 am

    “Companies like Big Dog and American Iron Horse — and, most recently, Big Bear — fell victim to the Great Recession, and the market had moved on to smaller customization outfits, right?”

    to “dissatisfied”: While I see only one company which has revived from ashes. BBC-RHC – go forward!

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  9. Bo Zack on June 30th, 2012 5:53 pm

    “We’re the only ones in business”? Actually you’re not. There are other companies out there such as Desperado who continue to thrive, WITHOUT having screwed customers out of their dollars. I can’t believe the nerve of these two scumbags. It’ll come full circle Alsop…and boy is it gonna be fun to watch when you and the old lady are thrown in the can for your thieving and wire fraud. Scott Simon’s a fool.

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  10. cully cuthrell on August 27th, 2012 4:38 pm

    short and sweet , I will continue to support and ride my BBC and my 2008 sled prostreet. very unfortunate chain of events however for every 5 unhappy customers there are 20 that our proud to say “I OWN A BIG BEAR CHOPPER”

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  11. Khalifa on November 4th, 2012 4:47 am

    sweet and quality, glad to hear that bbc is back in business,

    lovin’ my 2009 Athena Pro Street

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  12. J. George on November 20th, 2012 8:39 am

    In reviewing the facts of the bankruptcy and the claims from so many people who lost tens of thousands of hard earned money, it’s hard to digest that this business is allowed to be up and operating and furthermore that the dealers (who likely took deposits from customers) who lost in the past would entertain having any sort of relationship with these people. I’m glad to hear they are offering deals to companies that if they order 3 or 4 they’ll discount and try to smooze over what was lost, but what about the individual consumers, some of who are US Soldiers and some deployed, who paid out 10 or 20K and have no bike, no parts and no returned deposit? What is BBC or the Alsop’s doing for those people while they’re celebrating their proclaimed “newfound” success?

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  13. Eddie on June 12th, 2013 11:53 am

    Don’t forget that after accepting deposits on bikes they knew were
    not going to be built, they also left almost 1000 bikes on safety recall
    Do you think they are still fixing those dangerous frames?
    I think not.

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  14. Eddie Quist on December 9th, 2013 8:22 pm

    Kevin and Mona left us hanging as a dealer. We stepped up and bought several bikes toward the end and asked for their assistance . We offered to pay all expenses’, for them to attend a large Bike show in Spokane as their was still a lot of excitement about their products. They were a no show and wouldn’t return calls.They never paid their warranty claims, and we had to eat the expenses. They left a lot of customers hanging out waiting for parts. We jumped through a lot of hoops to become a dealer and to comply with all their rules. It was all one sided. These two cost their dealers a lot of money that they put in their pocket. Great bike, but if you have to deal with these two, think twice and walk away while you can!

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