BY JOHN GALLAGHER
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Visiting San Francisco once, Michael Rosemond took a ride in a pedicab along that city’s famed waterfront. The pedicab — a small carriage attached to a bicycle operated by a driver — made him an instant fan.
“I talked to one of the owners. He said, ‘Man, you’ve got to start these up in Detroit. People love them,’ ” Rosemond said last week.
That bit of advice led to Rickshaw Detroit, part of a small but growing pedicab trade in and around downtown Detroit. Rosemond operates Rickshaw Detroit with his business partner, Terry Walker, and they say that the growing number of clubs, restaurants, and special events downtown and up through the Midtown district prove ideal for the pedicab trade.
The business requires a lot of pedaling each partner rides perhaps 20 miles a day on summer weekends at the height of their season. But business has been brisk enough that Rickshaw Detroit no longer charges fares but gets by on tips.
“You can actually get more when you just ask for tips,” Walker said. “People love them so much.”
Rosemond added, “Once they get in, they don’t want to get out.”
The partners operate a lot along Detroit’s RiverWalk, carrying passengers along the waterfront promenade or to downtown restaurants. They also hire out to special events like weddings or the annual open house sponsored by Crain’s Detroit Business.
Both men live in Detroit and have other jobs. Walker, 50, is a safety officer with the Detroit Public Schools and a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve. He has served two combat tours in Iraq. Rosemond, 59, is a receptionist at the Detroit Institute of Art.
The partners met at a Detroit City Council meeting where both were lobbying for approval of a pedicab business. “We said, ‘Why don’t we get together? Two heads are better than one,’ ” Rosemond said.
The up-front investment remains modest. Each of the pedicabs, purchased from a Denver manufacturer, costs from $3,200 to $4,200, depending if you buy frills like a canopy. Then there’s insurance and a variety of other out-of-pocket expenses. Operators must obtain a rickshaw license from the City of Detroit.
The partners own three of the pedicabs, operating two themselves while they look for a third driver.
“It’s one of those businesses that you can start right out of the box,” Walker said. “You have the potential to recoup your investment really fast.”
Pedicabs offer the potential for advertising tie-ins and various partnerships. Walker said he also has benefitted from entrepreneurial training offered by TechTown, the business incubator operating on Wayne State University’s campus.