Diane Mastrull: RevZilla.com is bringing motorcycle gear to the Navy Yard

The Navy Yard is "the next chapter." This is part of the current chapter in South Phila.
The Navy Yard is "the next chapter." This is part of the current chapter in South Phila.
Posted: December 11, 2012

On 1,200 acres of Philadelphia waterfront, where some of the Navy's most historic ships were built, a fleet of another sort will soon make what Anthony Bucci hopes will be a high-impact entrance.

And not just because of the noise coming from the tailpipes.

RevZilla.com L.L.C., an online motorcycle-gear retailer created five years ago by three friends wanting to indulge their proficiency with technology and love of bikes, will move to Philadelphia Navy Yard in February.

It will leave its 35,000-square-foot, low-profile headquarters in an old South Philadelphia toy factory on Jackson Street and bring something novel to the business campus redevelopment site along the Delaware: shopping.

RevZilla.com will rent 50,000 square feet from Liberty Property Trust - right next to Tasty Baking Co. - and create a retail store selling apparel and accessories. It will be open on Saturdays and expects to attract riders near and far who prefer to shop in person rather than via the Internet.

"The Navy Yard represents the next chapter for RevZilla," said the 32-year-old Bucci.

He and partners Nick Auger, 28, and Matt Kull, 29, foresee that chapter as one of growth for a company that has known nothing but that.

Though unwilling to be more specific, Bucci said RevZilla.com's revenue was "mid-eight figures." The company of 50 employees – holding jobs in Web creation, technology, customer service, and logistics – was "cash-flow positive in 90 days, which was shocking for us," Bucci said. "We launched in the recession."

And took advantage of that punishing economic period.

"As most of our competition was looking for a belt to tighten, we were so small we had no belt," Bucci said.

Though "there was terror," it was offset by "a mixture of naivete and pathological optimism," he said. "We bet on ourselves that we could knit the parachute on our way down."

That confidence was fed by a belief in what Bucci describes as "a secret sauce" – software written in-house. The big barrier to e-commerce entry is inadequate technology to drive the sales, accounting, and warehouse-management functions, Bucci said. His industry is particularly tough because it is highly fragmented, Bucci said.

"We work with 50 vendors, each with between one and 10 warehouses, each running a different system for order-processing and inventory," he said. RevZilla.com built what Bucci called "a black box that could talk to all their systems."

To that, it added a product line of prestigious brands culled from suppliers in the United States and Europe, and a service operation focused on saving customers time with knowledgeable staff.

Then there are the videos, produced at RevZilla.com's own studios. They blend the whimsical (bowling with helmets) with serious product reviews, such as a new riding boot from Italy.

"YouTube is our largest online community of active users," Bucci said, describing RevZilla.com's typical customer base as a rather broad group - from dirt and sport riders between the ages of 18 and 34 to older professionals astride Harley-Davidsons, BMWs, and Bucci's current make of choice, a Ducati.

Bucci said annual revenue growth had been "well north of 50 percent and sometimes in triple digits."

The company has done it without outside investors, enabled in part by austerity in the early going. The three partners - all unmarried at the time - shared a rundown loft apartment in Old City and ate a lot of pasta, Bucci said.

Their plan is not to sell the business, but to focus "on the long dollar . . . building something meaningful that is sustainable," Bucci said.

The Navy Yard move will enable the company "to triple our staffing as well as house fast-growing inventory requirements," he said.

In January, RevZilla.com opened a warehouse in Las Vegas to provide faster West Coast delivery.

Amid all his expansion talk, Bucci does worry about growing too fast. "There's always that danger you lose focus or lose a handle on things people love," he said.

And there are those other threats to e-commerce retailers, he added: "Amazon's the great white shark, and you never know what Google is going to do next."

Among those expecting RevZilla.com to survive is David Bookspan, a partner in business accelerator DreamIt Ventures, L.L.C. - and an owner of two bikes: a Harley Springer and a BMW 1200GS. He has made no investment in the company other than as a customer.

Besides the market for motorcycle accessories and apparel being "big and growing," Bookspan said it was "somewhat old school."

"The technology and sophistication that RevZilla brings to it is why they are going to thrive and grow."


Diane Mastrull:

Anthony Bucci and his partners explain the vrooom behind RevZilla.com and its road to growth through the Navy Yard. www.philly.com/business


Contact Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466, dmastrull@phillynews.com, or follow @mastrud on Twitter.

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