The El Campo Cycle Center may have started in the small town of Ganado, but after 50 years, it has turned into a staple of the El Campo community.
James Schoeneberg didn’t think he would be making the decision of a lifetime when he opened his small cycle shop in Ganado in 1971. Now, 50 years later, Schoeneberg faces a legacy filled with ups, downs and a lot of luck.
“There was no real plan going into this, but boy did we get lucky,” Schoeneberg said. “Year after year we gained profit and year after year we grew. Thanks to the farmers and residents in Wharton County, we have built a legacy here.”
Schoeneberg moved to Ganado from Plainview at 21 to work in his uncle’s TV repair shop after graduating from the University of Houston with a degree in sociology.
It was then that he bought his first Honda 350 motorcycle.
“I bought myself a little street bike and started working on it and my friend’s bikes,” Schoeneberg said. “Before you know it, I had 30 to 40 bikes in my garage.”
Schoeneberg didn’t receive formal training, instead he got his knowledge from working with engines on his father’s farm.
“My dad had a farm South of Hillje, and we farmed rice, tobacco, cattle and really anything,” Schoeneberg said. “There was so much equipment constantly breaking down we had to learn how to work on them.”
Schoeneberg’s uncle wanted him to take over at the TV repair shop once he retired but could see his heart was not in it.
“My uncle said he could tell that I loved motorcycles the way he loved TVs,” Schoeneberg said. “He told me once I was ready to leave to start my own business with motorcycles, he would understand.”
That small Ganado shop’s only focus was repairing bikes, but it became the birthplace of what is known now as the El Campo Cycle Center.
Although Schoeneberg found success in repairing small engines, everything changed in 1982 when Suzuki created its first four-wheeled ATV.
He sold 225 4-wheelers in 1983 and established himself as a dealer in Wharton County after his move to El Campo from Ganado that same year.
“We actually test drove the prototypes before they even hit the market,” Schoenberg said.” I will never forget my dad with a huge bruise on his side saying how badly he wanted one. I knew if he wanted one, they would sell like crazy.”
Since 1983, Schoenberg says the El Campo Cycle Center has grown because of strong community support.
Now, 50 years later, The El Campo Cycle Center has moved for a third time and has grown into a multi-million dollar business.
Suzuki was the first company to approach Schoenberg, but now the dealership also sells Polaris, Honda, Can-Am and Bad Boy Mowers.
“When we first came over here, we were doing $200,000 a year,” Schoeneberg said. “Now it’s closer to $8.5 million, and it has everything to do with this community. We are here standing tall because of the people who have supported us.”
Schoeneberg’s son works in the service department, but he does not have a lot of other family members working for him. Still, he considers the El Campo Cycle center a family business.
“He rode his first four-wheeler when he was 18 months old and started racing when he was four,” Schoenberg said. “He went to Iraq with the Marines, but now he is back here with us, and he loves everything to do with bikes.
Troy Schoenberg has worked for his father off and on over his entire life. Currently, he works as the Fixed Operations Manager and Service Writer.
Many of Schoenberg’s employees have worked for him for years. This includes General Manager Matthew Irby, who has worked for the El Campo Cycle Center since he was 16 years old.
“This industry has been incredible, and the people who work in it make it even better,” Irby said. “It’s incredible to see what James has done with this small business and how someone can succeed even though they start off with so little.”
Irby’s wife Alyson has worked at the dealership for the last five years.
“The best part is getting to deal with people you know and someone you may bump into at the grocery store,” Irby said. “That is the best thing James has done. He has made so much money but has kept this dealership local.”
Schoenberg says he is still going strong every day after 50 years because of the customers.
“I love being able to provide people with what they need without them having to go hundreds of miles to get it,” Schoenberg said. “All my employee’s first job is to take care of the customer. Everything else is second.”
The El Campo Cycle Center will be celebrating its 50th anniversary on Sept. 11 with food and fun. The celebration will feature horseback riding, food trucks and an antique bike show.
“There is nothing I would have done differently and nothing I would want to change,” Schoenberg said. “The customers and employees that have been with me along the way have made the effort and success worth everything.”