Since joining Phat Scooters in early 2018, Derrick Mains has helped the Arizona-based company grow into the stars of an electric scooter manufacturer.
Now the 1991 Greater Johnstown graduate and some of his colleagues are moving into the spotlight.
A reality series tracing the success of the “Fat Tire” scooter company will feature two Johnstown locals – Mains, President and Chief Operating Officer of Phat Scooter, and Adam Mihalko, design engineer. The six-part series “Riding Phat” will debut on the streaming platform Crackle on Thursday.
Along the way, the company makes its bikes for A-list companies, major league squads, and retired professionals like former NBA All-Star Dominique Wilkins and NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip, Mains said.
Phat Scooters was founded after company co-founder Peter Johnson’s friend bought a Chinese e-scooter for his picnic, Mains said. It became a neighborhood hit.
“But it was basically just a toy. It had no quality, ”said Mains.
Johnson, a former US Olympic team swimmer in Sydney, teamed up with two friends, Dan Hankins and Beau Ralphs. Johnson and Ralphs both had manufacturing experience and quickly set out to build a better bike, he said. It wasn’t long before they sold the bikes to friends in the sports field and “word of mouth,” said Mains.
“Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson bought them for all the guys in their offensive lines,” he said, citing the quarterbacks for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, respectively. “A lot of the guys from the Phoenix Coyotes got them. Of all scooters sold, 15 to 20% went to celebrities and professional athletes. “
A fun moment during Russell Wilson’s weekly press release a while back. LT Duane Brown paused briefly on his new bespoke fat scooter. Wilson gave each of his O-Linemen one for Christmas:
Brown as he zooms away: “Y’all be safe out here!” pic.twitter.com/frX5XSjqMp
– Ben Arthur (enbenyarthur) December 24, 2020
Country star Blake Shelton also has a set of wheels.
ESPN spotted the trend in late 2020 after noticing an increasing number of golfers – and their caddies – are using them as single rider carts on courses.
Phat Scooters’ first 250 bikes were sold before arriving at their 2,000-square-foot warehouse in 2017, Mains said. In three months, they expanded to 14,000 square feet and then grew beyond that, he said.
Today they work in a 45,000 square foot facility in Phoenix.
“We were doing really well for the first few years,” said Mains, “but when the pandemic came … it just exploded. We started getting four to five orders at a time. I think a lot of people have been home looking for activities in their neighborhood. Things just went viral for us. “
The company’s scooters start at $ 495 for a portable model and go up to $ 8,750 for an HD golf scooter designed by NBA player and artist Desmond Mason.
The company plans to sell its 10,000th electric scooter later this year. At least 3,000 were built and sold last year.
It has her growing 40-strong company busier than ever at a time when a camera crew has been tracking her every move, he said.
According to Mains, the reality show was also pandemic-driven.
He was at a cocktail party with a guest list that included Arizona Cardinals general manager and motorsports documentary producer Kelly Sallaway in March 2020 when the NBA cut the remainder of the 2020 season.
The unprecedented decision rocked the room, he said, and soon attendees were discussing the virus’ impact on Hollywood.
“Kelly said to me, ‘If there’s ever the time to put on a reality show, this is the right time,’ because once everything is canceled there will be a huge gap in content for the season,” he said. “We knew the networks were going to freak out.”
The next morning, a full production crew lined up outside the Phat Scooters facility to film a series pitch.
“We had three listings in two months and, given Crackle’s huge user base, we thought they were the best choice,” said Mains. “It’s ad supported so everyone can see it.”
While things were happening for the company in otherwise turbulent times for much of the world, that didn’t mean the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t pose challenges for the company, he said. Many of them are being held on the six-part series that kicks off Thursday, he said.
“We were supposed to be going to the Caddyshack with Bill Murray and his brothers (the co-owners of golf apparel brand William Murray Golf Apparel), an event we’ve been involved in for years, but like everything else, it was canceled,” he said. “That was tough sometimes. You can’t shoot something that suddenly doesn’t exist anymore.”
Mains and Mihalko, a Windber Area graduate, are among three Johnstown area natives involved in Phat Scooters. Mains’ longtime friend, John Drapchak, is a Greater Johnstown graduate who heads the company’s IT division.
Mains said the group is looking forward to the show’s debut and sees it as a chance to introduce their company to the rest of the nation – including their hometown.
“Right now, most of our business is in the Southwest,” he said. “But we’re really excited to see what happens.”