A local golf cart specialist is planning a ribbon cutting and open house to celebrate becoming an authorized dealer for a leading manufacturer.
Golf Cart Outlet of Mount Airy will host the groundbreaking ceremony on April 22, marking its debut as a dealer of Club Car, the world’s largest manufacturer of zero-emission small-wheeled electric vehicles. The company is located at 272 Hickory St., Suite 800 on the east side of US 52 across from Pro Health.
The following day, April 23, the company will hold an open house, starting at 10 a.m., with food and activities, including a chance to try out some of the golf cart models available.
Club Car, a business unit of Ingersoll Rand, manufactures electric and gasoline golf carts as well as personal transportation and utility vehicle lines.
The accepted term is golf cart, but this is only the tip of the iceberg in the way vehicles are used.
Most golf courses rent their carts from manufacturers, so a dealership like Golf Cart Outlet really doesn’t do much business with golfers, owner Trey Leonard noted.
The most important clientele of his business are travelers who frequent the campgrounds.
Almost anyone with an RV or RV wants a golf cart to get around once they’re settled into a campsite, Leonard said.
Campgrounds have increased in size and now offer amenities like swimming pools and recreational activities, so campers want to be able to get to these places. Because carts have become so common, some campgrounds even hold golf cart parades for people to show off.
The next largest customer base is personal home use, he said.
People who own large construction sites or farms want a way to get around their property without having to throw a truck. Leonard said he recently sold four carts to a chicken farmer who wanted a way for him and his workers to move between barns.
If the buyer is not using the cart for golf, the space where the golf bags would go can be used for passenger seats, or a utility bed can be installed to carry fertilizer or tools, according to Helen Leonard. . Trey’s mother, who retired after three decades as a math teacher, helps with the business.
Helen Leonard said some retirees found it difficult to move around and these carts gave them a sense of freedom.
A recent client said he had had a double knee replacement and could no longer board his ATV, but a cart would work, she said.
Yes, people can choose a personal scooter to get around, but these have limits.
First, small wheels and lower horsepower can cause lockup on rough or hilly terrain. Second, the low speed means it may take a while to cover great distances. Third, scooters don’t have storage space.
Many cities are increasingly accepting carts, said Trey Leonard.
A year ago, city commissioner Jon Cawley proposed an ordinance allowing golf carts on downtown streets. He noted that many tourists have carts, and since Mount Airy sees itself as a tourist destination, allowing carts downtown would make the city more attractive.
This measure was finally rejected 3-2 last May.
There are ways to make a golf cart safer, Leonard noted, such as attaching headlights, brake lights, side mirrors, and turn signals. Many buyers already want these add-ons anyway.
Aftermarket products are an important part of the golf cart industry, he said. Lights are the main concern, but people have added seat belts, windshield wipers, radio sound systems, USB ports for charging electronic devices.
They choose wheels and tires based on whether they need a studded tread for better traction or a smoother ride on paved or concrete tracks.
Club Car even offers a mainstream utility line called XRT which is more rugged and powerful, with four-wheel drive and a trailer hitch.
If you ask how many people work at Golf Cart Outlet, the answer is: it depends on the day.
Some days there are a lot of people in the garage, said Helen Leonard.
That’s because the men who started the business are all firefighters.
Trey is the city’s captain, as is Danny Vipperman, Helen noted. Travis Golding is a part-time firefighter.
Travis Gray worked as a firefighter, but is now the only one in the business every day.
Firefighters work shifts, so they’re on duty one day and off for two, Helen said. It gives them free time, and the guys use it to run the business.
This is how Firehouse Subs started for brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen, and now the siblings have over 900 slots.
Trey strongly believes in the separation of Church and State. When he fulfills his role as captain, the fire department is all he thinks about. And when he’s not on the clock, Trey is fully invested in golf carts.
Firefighting is a brotherhood, so it’s no surprise that when other firefighters, members of the rescue team, and police also have some free time, the comrades enjoy spending time with friends. And if their friends are in the garage, Leonard and Gray could put them to work.
“They will step in from time to time,” said Helen.
So why golf carts?
Trey Leonard said his parents joined the Mount Airy Country Club and bought their own golf cart when he was just 10 months old. He grew up around games and carts, and used vehicles for more than just sports.
His good friend Travis Gray has been working on golf carts for a decade, Trey said. Gray has set up a permanent campground at Homeplace Recreation Park so that campers can bring their carts to him for repairs.
After a few years, Gray could see that the business was doing well and began to consider a real garage.
Around July 2014, Trey and Travis started working on setting up a business and office, Helen said. On July 4 of last year, the site opened on Hickory Street, an area known to locals as Cat Holler.
Having plenty of workspace led to a surprise customer request.
The gentleman said he wouldn’t be there during the winter and wanted someone to take care of his cart, Helen said. Not only keep it stocked, but make sure that the expensive electric batteries on board are well maintained.
It was very easy to do, and if space allowed, others could take advantage, she said.
Trey opened up a cart to show he has six batteries inside, and neglect could result in the deaths of all six in a single winter.
“We call this time of year battery season,” Trey said, because of all the replacements needed.
Regarding the open house, Trey said the guys enjoy a good camaraderie in the business and he hopes people will come on April 23 to meet everyone and be part of the extended family.
Golf Cart Outlet of Mount Airy is planning a ribbon cut this month on its new status as an authorized Club Car dealer. Among those working at the company are Travis Golding, left, Trey Leonard, Saige Wolfe and Travis Gray.
Owner Trey Leonard shows how the rear seat can unfold to reveal hidden storage. A drain plug at the bottom allows the space to be used as a cooler with ice.
Owner Trey Leonard demonstrates the radio in one of the golf carts.
Spare parts adorn a wall inside the company’s showroom. Add-ons are very popular, according to the company.
Cart owners can choose from a variety of wheels and tires, depending on the look, function and level of comfort desired.
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.