History of the Brand: Helmet House

Publish Date: 
Dec 3, 2013
By Mike Vaughan

NOTE TO READERS:

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." We're all familiar with brands, and every product we buy or use represents some kind of brand. Brands are like the job-seeker's elevator speech; hearing or seeing the brand name of a product paints an instantaneous picture in our minds about the brand's quality, reputation and position in the marketplace.

Successful brands are built upon a foundation of quality, innovation, and consumer service. The Helmet House brand meets all of these requirements.

This is Helmet House's story, courtesy Dealernews' Mike Vaughan.


THE HISTORY of the powersports industry is littered with manufacturers, marketers and distributors who thought they had a good idea and demand, only to find out that their idea, product or service wasn’t able to survive the ups and downs of the powersports business. A lot of these companies successfully surfed a rising powersports wave in the 1970s and again in the mid-2000s only to discover that when the wave finally crashed, their vision, service or product wasn’t enough to sustain them, and their businesses folded.

Helmet House is one of the few companies that have successfully navigated the economic hills and valleys our market has experienced during the past 44 years. It’s not just surviving but thriving; acquiring, adapting and designing new products to meet the demands of a constantly evolving market.

The business began modestly enough. In 1969, Phillip Bellomy and Bob Miller, two friends and co-workers at Grant Industries, manufacturers of steering wheels and helmets, started selling, with Grant’s blessings, factory seconds and blems at weekend swap meets in Southern California. They called their part-time business “The Weekend Sales Company.”

Their efforts were so successful that they soon engaged friends to cover more of the swap meets that were then popping up at drive-in theaters throughout Southern California. Within three months they concluded their business was successful enough that they quit their jobs at Grant, leased a building in West Los Angeles, and christened their new business “Helmet House.”

Demand was such that they began selling seconds from other companies: American Safety, Champion and Premier.

“Some companies were actually making seconds for us to increase their volume,” Bellomy noted in an interview. “We weren’t getting rich, but we were making a living.”

Hoping to expand their business and become a recognized wholesale distributor, they applied to Webco, but were rebuffed because they weren’t motorcycle dealers. In spite of that they were able to persuade some high-end helmet companies like Bell and McCall of their legitimacy and began displaying and selling their helmets.

“We put the high-end helmets in to give our store some credibility, and then we started selling the expensive stuff in spite of ourselves,” Bellomy said. “At some point we began selling more expensive helmets than cheap ones.”

During this period a salesman was hired and a van was leased and sent on the road to expand their swap meet sales. Eventually they began importing a line of motocross gloves from the Philippines, and acting as a distributor for Paulson Shields, which established them as a motorcycle aftermarket wholesaler. (continued)