Peaks Island Golf Carts was born in 2011, when I was 13 years old. At the time, many residents of Peaks Island owned golf carts, but none were available for rent. (It turns out that there was another very rental business that already existed, but it was almost completely dormant). Tourists often stopped me on the street, asking where they could get one of those. As a precocious eighth grader, I wondered the same.
In the following weeks, I spent a lot of time on Craigslist, searching for used golf carts. I called what felt like hundreds (but was more likely dozens) of cart owners and dealers. I asked questions as I went - should I be looking for a gas or electric cart? Yamaha or Club Car? Why were all the EZ-Go’s cheaper? Would the cart wear out quickly if it was rented all day? How easy is it to install a back seat?
I eventually decided on a 1994 Yamaha cart, sold by a man named JT. The cart cost $1000 - twice what I had in my bank account. My then-9 year old brother, Kolya, lent me the other $500 in exchange for a ten percent share in the business. Days later, my patient father drove me to Hartford, Connecticut, where we met JT and loaded the cart onto our rented Enterprise truck. Driving the cart onto the ferry was the first time I had ever driven a vehicle in my life.
Almost as soon as we got the cart to our house, I got a call from the Island police station, which evidently had caught wind of my venture. They were a little concerned: the cart was not registered or insured, I was not commercially zoned, and I had no business license (or drivers license, for that matter).
I spent almost every day of July on the phone with City Hall and LegalZoom, figuring out how to navigate small-biz bureaucracy. Extremely kind administrators and customer service representatives guided me through the process of forming an LLC and finding an insurance policy, among other things. At the beginning of August, I was ready to open for business. I hung my Staples-made banner on the fence across from the café — and as I walked home after hanging the sign, I received my first call. The cart was booked solid for the rest of the summer. I’d answer my phone with “sorry, the entire fleet is booked. Can I take your name in case of a cancellation?”
The following summer, I bought another cart. After that, eight more. Now, PIGC is twenty carts strong, with six employees, an extremely talented mechanic, and a store-front on Island Ave. I can’t possibly capture the excitement of the past seven years in a short piece, but I can say: Peaks Island Golf Carts's birth and growth has been the single most educational experience of my life. I have learned to manage employees, pay taxes, navigate insurance policies, and change tires and oil. I have gained confidence in an industry that is run almost exclusively by men over the age of forty. I have built relationships with vendors and land-lords. I have messed up and figured it out a hundred times over. My seventy-five year old mechanic is one of my best friends. Out of that one dilapidated cart, an industry has grown.
Now, I am facing a new challenge - there are so many carts on Peaks Island these days that Islanders are starting to complain: renters aren’t always respectful of the island and the carts are loud. These complaints are valid. But as the Island Council begins work on outlawing hourly golf cart rentals, and I find myself in a difficult situation. I am, of course, very partial to my business. I have worked hard to listen to the complaints of islanders and to institute new safety requirements and rules for renters. However, I love Peaks Island very dearly, too — I don’t want to see it overtaken with carts, and I want to run my business as responsibly as I possibly can. It is tough to strike a balance, and I am still in the process of figuring out how best to do so. Suggestions and advice, from islanders and customers alike, are welcome.
In the meantime, come rent a cart (and drive responsibly)!