Entrepreneurs / Small Business  June 17, 2011

See Estes Park sights from a Segway soon

ESTES PARK – At the age of 76, Jack Hershey could be sitting in a rocking chair or playing shuffleboard at the senior center.

Instead, the Colorado transplant is about to open a Segway-based tourism business in Estes Park.

A resident of Windsor, Hershey will not only own Segway Tours USA but also plans to lead some of the tours of the town and nearby area when the business opens at 517 Big Thompson Road on June 20.

“There are people out there looking for fun and I’m going to give it to them,´ said Hershey, who plans to have eight of the gyroscopically balanced transportation devices available to Estes Park visitors and residents.

Hershey’s business venture will be the third in Estes Park to feature Segways, which were first sold to the public in 2001. A local Segway sales outlet folded when its owner passed away, and another tour operation flourished between 2005 and 2007.

Hershey said his business will feature a one-hour-plus ride around the town with a tour guide who will talk about the area’s historic and scenic aspects.

Hershey said he has not yet decided how much the ride will cost but will be somewhere north of $50.

The town’s planning department approved Hershey’s business license in early June with a business plan that calls for five to six tours per day between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Mayor’s idea

Hershey said he got the idea to start the business from former Windsor Mayor Ed Starck, who became a bit of a local celebrity for riding around town on his Segway.

“I saw one at a Fourth of July celebration and got interested in it,” Starck said. “I went up to Estes Park and tried one out and my wife tried one out and in 15 minutes we were up on the trails in Estes Park. She bought one for our 40th anniversary, and being a good husband I bought one for her, too.”

Starck said a conversation they had about the device’s business potential resulted in Hershey taking the Segway plunge.

“I hope it works out for him,” he said. “I personally didn’t want to get involved in a business. I retired in 2003 and wanted to keep it that way.”

Hershey was also retired when he got interested in Segways. A native of Los Angeles, Hershey had a business that sold a material that protected buildings from graffiti. He moved to Colorado to be closer to a daughter and decided to stay.

Hershey said the battery-powered devices are incredibly intuitive and respond to leaning one way or the other and pushing forward or pulling back on the steering handle.

“It took me about 15 seconds to learn it,” he said. “It really is a very easy thing to do.”

Safety concerns

Sanford Greenberg, owner of Rocky Mountain Segway in Boulder – the only Segway sales outlet in Northern Colorado – said “sales are decent,” although the device’s $5,000 to $6,000 price is a deterrent to many. “Each year (sales have) picked up,” he added.

Greenberg said the two-wheeled devices have a top speed of 12.5 mph and are reasonably safe.

“They’re safe if you know what you’re doing and not if you don’t,” he said. “We always recommend wearing a helmet.”

The device’s safety was brought into question last fall when the owner of the company that makes the Segway died after driving one off a cliff at his estate in England.

Starck, a strong proponent of Segways, knows riding them must be done responsibly. Starck, 67, said he was riding his in downtown Windsor several weeks ago when he hit a curb and broke his leg.

“Do I blame the Segway? No. I could have taken the same dirty spill on my bicycle,” he said. “They’re very pedestrian-friendly and user-friendly but like anything else you have to be careful.”

Meantime, Hershey said if his Estes Park business is a success he’s interested in setting up other similar Segway businesses in the Redwoods of Washington state or in Yosemite National Park.

“As far as tourism is concerned, we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg yet,” he said.

ESTES PARK – At the age of 76, Jack Hershey could be sitting in a rocking chair or playing shuffleboard at the senior center.

Instead, the Colorado transplant is about to open a Segway-based tourism business in Estes Park.

A resident of Windsor, Hershey will not only own Segway Tours USA but also plans to lead some of the tours of the town and nearby area when the business opens at 517 Big Thompson Road on June 20.

“There are people out there looking for fun and I’m going to give it to them,´ said Hershey, who plans to have eight of…

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