Wheel Fun Rentals finds real success in Ventura
By Rebecca Wicks
April 15, 2015
Along with joggers, dog walkers and surfers, the sight of tourists pedaling four-wheeled surreys along Ventura’s boardwalk is a fairly common one. The company behind these and many other recreational rentals– Wheel Fun Rentals – has six locations in the city and is also headquartered here in Ventura.
The company began when founder Brian McInerney first saw a four-wheeled surrey on a trip to Italy in 1984. Enamored with the vehicle, he sought the manufacturer, and before returning to the states purchased and shipped a container of them back to Ventura where he started a small rental company. In 1999 he and former head of Diamondback Bicycles, Al Stonehouse, began Wheel Fun Rentals. Today, both are still involved in the day-to-day running of the business with Stonehouse serving as CEO and president, and McInerney as vice president. Together they have grown the once tiny rental business to include more than 100 locations across the country.
Employing 15 in their headquarters in Ventura, the company manages corporate-owned locations as well as their franchise program which consists of 15 members who use the Wheel Fun name nationwide. Those employed here in Ventura include an engineering team which redesigned the surrey for the company’s specific needs which according to Director of Marketing Sheena Walenta, includes additional safety features and other upgrades to make the surreys more durable to hold up against erosion from sea air and other rough rigors of the rental market. The company now manufactures these unique surreys along with an originally designed deuce coupe – a three-wheeled recumbent bike that sits low to the ground.
While the company has seen tremendous growth in the last decade, with recent additional locations in New York, Philadelphia, Louisville and parts of Florida, Wheel Fun still looks to expand. The company has been creative about advancing its business, with a number of rental businesses in the county located on hotel properties, some even run by hotel staff with a split profit-model between the company and the hotel.
“We have a goal to both grow the number of locations in franchise territories as well as find new ways to branch out all over the nation,” said Walenta.
The key to growth for the company according to Walenta includes the company’s ability to offer different types of rentals depending on the market need. For example Wheel Fun Rentals in Long Beach offers Segway tours, while the location in Minneapolis offers a dinner boat option and the Clearwater, Florida rental location has self-guided kayak tours.
In addition to this strategy, the company believes it will continue to grow because it offers something everyone can enjoy.
“We offer something for everyone ages 0-99,” said Walenta. “There are not a lot of things you can enjoy as a family or friends that span a large age spectrum, but we’re one of them We have something for every ability – even special needs.”