Doorstep delivery: Family rolls out bike rental business

TRAVERSE CITY – For the Bork-MacManus family, good things come in twos. This summer, two sons and two daughters, ages 9 to 19, are balancing a new two-wheeled business, Bay Bike Rentals LLC, with guidance from Mom and Dad.

The company rents single-speed cruisers for adults and children that have wide, whitewall tires and pedal brakes – plus 7-speed tandems, small child trailers and trail-a-bikes. What sets them apart from other bike rentals in town is their mobile business model and free doorstep deliveries within a 25-mile radius of downtown Traverse City.

"Customer convenience is No. 1," said their mother, Kimberly Bork. "By not having a location, we have lower overhead, which allows us to deliver at no charge to the customer, as well as offer competitive pricing."

During a recent vacation in the Florida Keys, Kimberly, her husband, Chris, and the four kids went bicycling together on six cruisers delivered to their hotel's door. The convenience of not having to pick up their rented bikes – and the ability to enjoy themselves without computers, cell phones and televisions – inspired them to try rolling out a similar bike rental service in Traverse City, one that would offer fun, convenient and healthy recreation for tourists and the community.

"We thought, 'Hey, nobody's doing that here,'" Bork said. "We could start and teach the kids the facets of running their own business. It was kind of one of those natural things for us: Chris is in sales, I'm in marketing.

For the kids, it's a learning experience. The two teenaged boys, Alex and Andrew, both drivers, are majority shareholders. Their younger sisters, Brooke and Ana, will become partners when they obtain their drivers' licenses. For their parents, who have each owned a business and enjoy full-time careers working for others, it's about teaching their children to be self-sufficient.

"The kids are learning more than bike delivery and pick up. They are involved with business management, marketing, sales, accounting and the importance of superior customer service," Bork said.

Brooke MacManus, 13, helps with customer service and readies the bikes. She said she was surprised when her parents presented the summer business idea.

"It's really a great summer opportunity."

Her older brother, Andrew Bork, 17, said he was excited about his parents' plan.

"It beats fast food…I like the fact that it's family-based. We get to bond a little." Andrew drives a full-size king cab GMC pickup truck that carries up to eight bikes. (A trailer holds another 20.) The Traverse City Central High School student (class of 2010) plans to save a portion of his percentage earnings for college tuition and books.

"I like that I'm my own boss," he said. "How we portray ourselves to our clients is how they'll remember us."

Matt Mulligan, a salesperson with Brick Wheels, said that their store has always offered delivery for an additional fee. Rich Budek, manager of McLain's store on Garfield Road, said that while the Eighth Street location rents bikes, delivering them is not the store's normal practice unless a fleet is requested.

Commenting on Bay Bike Rentals, Bob Otwell, executive director of TART, said: "We are always glad to have more bikes available to area residents and visitors. Our community was recently recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. This new service is another way to allow visitors to enjoy our area from the seat of a bike." BN