Retired couple finds 'mission' renting scooters

Friday, August 31, 2007

MOUNT VICTORY, Ohio - Retired couple Lois and Butch Holbrook have turned what they call a "good deed" into a booming scooter rental business that could make some providers envious, especially with dwindling Medicare reimbursement.
The Holbrooks started Event Scooters a year ago after overhearing a fair organizer complain that she was inundated with requests for golf carts or scooters, but she had none to offer. This summer, they'll set up shop at 32 events, mostly fairs, but also arts and crafts shows and golf tournaments.
"Aside from a day or two here and there, we probably won't be home for any length of time until November," said Lois Holbrook, 62, a former state worker for Pinellas County, Fla.
The Holbrooks have a fleet of 63 three- and four-wheeled scooters manufactured by Pride Mobility and Golden Technologies. For each event, they transport about 35 scooters using a 26-foot trailer and set up a 10-by-10 foot tent. They charge $7 per hour. Butch Holbrook's brother, who works for Event Scooters part time, often takes the remaining scooters and rents them at another event.
When the Holbrooks started Event Scooters, they thought seniors would make up the bulk of their customer base. Instead, it's people between 35 and 40 years old who are recouping from broken ankles, bad backs or other ailments.
While the Holbrooks characterize their post-retirement gig as rewarding and fun, it's also a lot of work. They spend the bulk of their winters marketing the business and signing contracts for the upcoming summer.
Additionally, the start-up costs of buying that many scooters, as well as two trailers to transport them, were hefty. The Holbrooks also pay liability insurance.
Even though he's well aware of people making a decent living renting scooters at amusement parks, trade shows and other venues, Bob Early, owner of the Harrisonburg, Va.-based VIP Scooters, says he's not ready to take to the road.
"Business isn't that bad," he half joked. "I'm 53 years old; maybe if I was 26 years old."
For the Holbrooks, though, it's just as much a labor of love as a moneymaker.
"We're very proud of what we do; the minister of our church calls it our mission," said Lois Holbrook. "People thank us and hug us. They tell us they haven't been to the fair for years and that they thought they'd never be able to go again."