How We Began…
I began with 50 bikes and a couple of storage units that doubled as my shop/office/storage. I got very lucky and had been introduced to Mary Brown who was opening Beach Rentals of South Walton which wound up being one of the largest cottage rental companies on 30A during that period. A snowbird couple named “Fat and Jan” had recently adopted Nicole and I. They were the nicest people in the world and continue to be friends of ours, although Jan’s health has prevented them from taking their yearly break here for quite a number of years now. They have been missed severely, by us and many others who knew them! So, I landed a contract with Mary Brown to be their sole bike provider. This gave me the instant business I desperately needed during a time when customers were few and far between. I see a ton of new bike rental companies open and close every year these days because it looks like a gold mine with easy pickens here today. Unfortunately for the wanna-be bike rental shops, that is not the case. This is a business just like any other that takes years of hard work and a mechanical knowledge of the product you are trying to sell to people.
Most fail within a year or two of opening, but that does not in any way deter the next generation of up and comers from trying their hand at this business. One of the reasons a shop like mine is able to rent over a thousand bikes per week during the season is because I have from the beginning worked day in and day out to make sure my bikes were something I was proud to offer my customers. I’m obsessed with rust, or the lack of, and have went to great lengths to make sure my bikes are rust free. Doing this in a saltwater environment is not an easy task! Luckily I was born into a very mechanically oriented family and from the beginning my father has been there to help me create new ways of tackling these issues that plague the bike rental industry. We were able to bounce ideas off each other and come up with a maintenance program that enables us to present great bikes year in and year out. We have bikes in the fleet that have been with us from the first year open!
The Best Bikes…
Most rental companies only get 1-3 seasons out of a rental bike, and by the end that bike is absolute rusted junk! We get 5 years minimum out of our rental bikes and every year they get a makeover that makes them look like the first season they were out. It is so important to make double sure the customers in this area receive a product that is indicative of the prices they are shelling out to stay here! You don’t give a rusted Wal-Mart bike to someone who’s spending $450 with you! Past that simple rule in business, I would not give anyone a product that I that I wouldn’t have myself. The sad fact is that there are many so called concierge services and “we rent everything” companies in this area these days that rent Wal-Mart bikes to customers even thought their websites provide examples of high end bikes. This is misleading and just not good business as far as I’m concerned. Every picture you see on our website are bikes straight from our fleet. I made sure they were seasoned bikes and not new so that customers would know what to expect when they checked in to their rental.
The product is only half the equation when operating a service business.
Customer service is what creates or destroys any future business with your customers. I would like to think that I have been blessed with a decent personality that brings my customers back every year. You can definitely tell the people that fake it when you meet them. I try to treat my customers exactly how I treat my family and friends. In fact over the years I have become good friends with a number of customers. I have met many wonderful people throughout the years and I’m really thankful to have a business that attracts good people. Of course, there are those few that walk in my door who will not be pleased no matter what we do. If you are reading this and you are not one of those people, you know exactly what I’m talking about here. The ones that complain at every restaurant they go to trying to get their food comp’ed , or a purchase to receive a discount. And of course these are the customers that will most likely write bad reviews about the particular business who dares to stand their ground! The sad thing is that as a business you can serve thousands of happy customers to the best of your abilities and those very few can write a scathing review and all of a sudden all that matters is their warped view of you, not the thousands that were very pleased. Maybe if more happy customers would take the time to jump through all the hoops you have to go through to sign up for one of these review sites and write a good review for those that have done a good job, then those people that use the fear of reprisal to get discounts and free food, rentals, etc. would lose that ability to scare honest hard working customer service business owners. That is all I have to say about that.
I talked my Father and Mother into moving down here from Memphis 3 or 4 years ago to help us continue growing. They have been a tremendous help that you just can’t get from hiring a manager. Over the last 12 years my Father and I designed and refined a trailer for deliveries that was completely different than anything available, if you could even find something. The bicycle rental industry is just not large enough to have any manufacturer’s eye that would make things like delivery trailers available, so we had to create our own. Not to mention back when we first created this delivery trailer, most bicycle rental companies were not pushing the delivery aspect of this business. They were satisfied with customers coming to them to rent and returning the bikes when done. Since I was starting out of a storage unit, I had to deliver, and had to minimize the number of trips back and forth that that truck bed delivery just wouldn’t do. Our original design would allow us to carry 28 bikes on the trailer. Subsequent improvements on that original design moved that number up to 30 – 32 according to a few different design factors. For many years I ran with one trailer. About 6 years ago I talked my wife into quitting her job and coming on board with me to grow past what I could accomplish by myself. Well, because my wife is so much better than I am at generally anything having to do with labor, we saw massive growth over the next six years up until where we are today. We now have 5 trucks and 5 trailers running daily during the in season.
Relax, You’re At The BEACH…
For the first 9 years of creating our delivery trailer I never had anyone steal my design. Watercolor was the only company to contact me during that period to request permission to copy my design. I have much respect for Watercolor because they followed a code of ethics we all live by in business by asking my permission. Watercolor is owned by a large corporation compared to me, this little one man business. Yet instead of just copying my design because of their size, they asked permission to replicate it! How great is that? I made me feel really proud of my Father and myself at that time, and still makes me smile. Sadly in the past 2 or 3 years there have been a few to try their best to copy it but failed. There is one particular newly opened bike rental company who came here from Hilton Head Island that I caught in my parking lot taking pictures of my delivery trailer without my permission. I walked out and questioned the man because unlike the many tourist photographers that grace our lot here, this guy had dress pants and a button down shirt on in the heat of the day! He laughed and replied that he just thought it was interesting. I had forgotten about it until one of my employees happened to be over on the west side of 30A and found they had an exact duplicate sitting loaded with bikes in front of their new shop! He texted me a picture of it and asked if I had let them borrow one of my trailers! When you put your heart and soul into something for over 10 years and overnight someone who hasn’t worked a day comes in and steals it. Who by their own actions has proven what kind of people they are. So this is a story of a small business and how things happen. We will continue to expand our operation and have a great time doing it. We are not perfect or even close to it. We will always try our best to offer the best product possible with a smile. I hope that this story was entertaining and at the least you might have a better picture of who the bike guy is.
In closing I ask that you please continue to use our bikes on your vacations here, and have a wonderful safe time doing it!
Thank you for being great customers.