Thinking outside the box has always been a way of life for Don Cassady, and visitors and locals in Minocqua have been witness to that fact since May 31. That’s when Don opened his Island City Pedicab Company and it’s the first one of its kind north of Madison. In fact, it’s the first one ever to run in Minocqua. “It can be hard finding a job up here,” he said. “I love living in Minocqua, but I also want to make a living, so I decided to go into business for myself. I figured running a pedicab would be a good way to make some money.”
And Don is finding that to be true. “I was surprised the first day I opened,” he said. “I didn’t do half bad.”
Don first came to the Island City when he was a boy vacationing with his family, who lived Indiana. He moved to the Minocqua area when he was a teenager. However, after graduating high school, he found himself doing a variety of jobs all over the United States. He’s worked in New Orleans, Texas, Missouri and Mississippi. And his employment talents range from working as an armed security guard, to serving as a merchant marine on the Great Lakes to floor maintenance. “I’m always willing to learn a new skill,” he said.
But each time he came back to the area, work was hard to come by. So last winter, Don did some research and learned that no one had ever opened a pedicab company in the area before. He saw first-hand their popularity when he was working in New Orleans as an armed guard. “They’re all over the place down south,” he said. “They’re real popular with the tourists.”
Since Minocqua swells with vacationers during the summer months, Don thought a pedicab would fit in well in the Island City, but he didn’t know where he could purchase one. So he turned to the Internet and found not only one for sale, but three. He bought them all; however, only one was ready for action. “I’ve got some work to do on the other two,” he said. “But it was a deal I couldn’t refuse.”
Since Don is the first ever pedicab company owner in Minocqua, he was unsure when a good time would be to operate his business. “There’s no business plan to fall back on here,” he said. “So the first day, I just went out there and waited to see what would happen.”
But he’s learned a lot in the short time he’s been pedaling the streets of Minocqua. For instance, his most consistent customers are late night revelers, who are frequent visitors to the downtown area. “I’m finding day time is a little slower, but I really get a workout when the bars get going downtown,” he said. “Then I’m working almost non-stop. Sometimes I don’t get home until 3 a.m.”
Though Don has plenty of enthusiasm and energy, he didn’t do any extra working out to prepare for his new endeavor. However, he did quit smoking. “I found out real quick that I wasn’t going to be able to handle much pedaling if I kept up with that habit,” he said. “But I find that a real positive.”
The pedicabs that Don purchased are big enough to hold a couple of adults or “one big Packer,” although he does do some calculating when he finds a couple of riders, or fares. “You know real big people are going to cost you more energy,” he said. “It’s not bad when the terrain is flat, but I try and stay away from hills, especially going up them with passengers.”
For the most part, the majority of Don’s customers enjoy just riding around the downtown area of Minocqua, but he’s also finding that a lot of clients appreciate the fact that he can get them to their hotel, especially late at night. “Most of my fares are up here to vacation, so they’re not feeling any pain when I take them home,” he said. “But I feel good about that, because maybe I’m saving them a DUI ticket and it’s making the streets safer for everyone else.”
The fact that he’s running a business with a low carbon footprint also makes him proud. “There’s no pollution running this,” he said. “I feel good about that.”
Don admits that he’s also getting quite an education listening to his customers as they ride along, and many times he has turned into an impromptu tour guide. “You know, people on vacation always have a lot of questions but I don’t mind,” he said. “In fact, I really enjoy meeting new people and helping them learn more about this area.”
While Don feels he is still in the learning stages as far as his new business is concerned, once he sees how it progresses, he’s considering expanding. Ideally, he would like to branch out in Rhinelander, Eagle River and Tomahawk, by renting his vehicles to other entrepreneurs. He’s also saving his pedicab profits to buy a motorhome and he plans on traveling to warmer places in the winter to run his business. “One good thing about running a pedicab is that it’s a mobile business,” he said. “You can go anywhere.”
And while Don is happy to be pedaling his way to prosperity, he’s also happy he’s contributing to the community, and hopefully leaving a lasting impression on the visitors who come to play in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. “I think people who ride in my pedicab will remember it for years to come,” he said. “It makes me happy to be a part of making good memories for people.”
For more information about Island City Pedicab Company, call (715) 614-1503.