Segway dealer chooses TC over Ann Arbor

TRAVERSE CITY – It's not every day that Traverse City beats Ann Arbor as a location for a new retail business. But that's exactly what happened with Segway By KAR, thanks to what the owners call "an incredible community effort" by area officials and organizations.

The business, which sells the innovative Segway Human Transporter, recently opened its doors at 130 Hall Street, across the street from the new downtown BATA transfer station. Segway By KAR is owned by cousins Karen Russell Whalen and Kathleen Russell. The store is a licensed Segway dealer, one of approximately 50 nationwide.

Karen and Kathleen own the rights for Segway dealerships in eight northern Michigan counties, as well as western Wayne county and the Ann Arbor area. Their original plan called for the first retail shop to open in Ann Arbor, but several positive experiences here in Traverse City changed their mind.

"We were just so very impressed from the very beginning by the community here," commented Russell. "From business consulting by SCORE (via the Traverse City Chamber) to the Downtown Development Authority allowing Segways to be parked in the parking deck to great cooperation from BATA to an innovative partnership with the Traverse City Police, it became clear that this is where we should open first."

Russell specifically cited a partnership with the Traverse City Police Department, whereby officers rode Segways on a 60-day trial basis this summer. Police Sergeant Brian Heffner said the trial was a great success. Several police departments, particularly in urban areas, are utilizing the Segway for community policing, including Chicago, which purchased 75 Segways last year.

Segway By KAR offers all three Segway models for sale for $5,000 each or daily rentals for $150. The company is also developing plans for hourly rentals and partnerships with area non-profits to help build awareness for the Segway. Segway By KAR has sold five units since opening.

Russell, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, was first introduced to a Segway during a Parkinson's conference in Washington D.C. in February. Although the device is not legally approved as a mobility aide for individuals with disabilities, Russell says it is a natural market because Segways provide a new sense of freedom and empowerment to those who have limited mobility. Segway By KAR's first sale was to an area resident who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.

Downtown commuters who wish to save on gas costs also represent an obvious target for the company. The battery-powered Segway can travel 24 miles with one charge.

To learn more or to make an appointment to test drive a Segway, contact Segway By KAR at 922-OKAR. BN