There’s money to be made in moped rentals on Martha’s Vineyard, but just a handful of people are counting the cash — seven shop owners and four landlords, to be exact.
Dealers claim they rented mopeds to 30,000 people last year. At roughly $70 per rental, that means gross receipts would have topped $2 million for a season lasting just a few months.
Last week, in the midst of growing criticism of mopeds, dealers met with each other and proposed a buy-out of their businesses by the community as one way to get rented mopeds off Island roads. The buy-out figure suggested? Nothing less than a half-million dollars per shop, said one dealer.
Despite an accord reached last spring between dealers and their opponents that resulted in a nine-point plan for improved safety, public outcry against mopeds has intensified, largely because of two separate moped accidents last month that killed one tourist and left another one critically injured.
Oak Bluffs selectmen, at their meeting last week, called for action to restrict moped rentals in their town, both through tougher enforcement of town bylaws and through endorsing a proposed state law that would ban moped rentals to anyone without a motorcyle license.
How serious town leaders are remains to be seen. They took no official vote on the issue. Meanwhile, both Oak Bluffs and Tisbury, the two towns that license moped rental dealerships, also benefit from the cash stream produced by mopeds in the form of tax revenue. Most of it goes to Oak Bluffs, whose downtown is home to seven of the Island’s eight moped operations. Three dealers are licensed in Tisbury, but only one is actually renting mopeds.
Property taxes generated from dealers and their landlords will help generate more than $127,000 for Oak Bluffs this year, according to records in the town assessor’s office. In Tisbury, the figure is just a fraction by comparison, $13,681.
Licensing fees also put money in town coffers. In Oak Bluffs, where the fee is $500 per shop, the total for the year comes to $4,000. For Tisbury, the fee is $425, for a total of $1,275 from the three licensed dealers.
So, who are the dealers and the landlords? According to town records, the Wallace family in Oak Bluffs is a major player, holding a license to rent more mopeds than any other dealer in town and having an interest in at least one and possibly two other dealerships.
Mark Wallace, 39, the owner of Ride-On Mopeds and Bikes on Lake avenue, is licensed to rent 120 mopeds. His mother, Ann Wallace, rents space to another dealer, Porthole Mopeds, on Circuit avenue extension.
According to records kept in the Oak Bluffs selectmen’s office, both Porthole and Harbor Bike and Mopeds are owned by Kingsbury Corporation. The last known owner of Kingsbury Corporation was Mr. Wallace’s brother, Michael Wallace. That corporation was involuntarily dissolved in 1998, according to state records.
The Wallaces denied any business interest in Harbor Bike and Moped when that dealership was named last month as the defendant in a possible consumer lawsuit, involving a woman who was injured in a moped accident last June.
The operator for both Porthole and Harbor Bike and Mopeds is Colin Young, 38. Mr. Young rents space from the owner of the Dockside, Terry McCarthy, for his Harbor Moped business, which is licensed for 71 mopeds. Porthole Mopeds is licensed for 80 mopeds.
Other dealerships in Oak Bluffs are:
• DeBettencourt’s Bike Shop and Lazy Pedaler, owned by Anne S. DeBettencourt, 56, and located at the far end of Circuit avenue extension. Her business is licensed to rent 90 mopeds.
• King’s Rentals is owned by Cheryl M. King, 43. Situated alongside the Strand Theatre, the shop is licensed for 80 mopeds. The landlord is Benjamin L. Hall of Edgartown, owner of the Island movie theatre chain.
• Two Wheel Traveler is owned by Francis Alarie 3rd, who is 33. His shop is licensed to rent 58 mopeds, and his landlord is Charles Bardelis of Falmouth, who owns the Island Queen ferry operation.
• Sun ’n’ Fun is owned by Don Gregory, 59, and his wife Pauline Gregory, 62. They are licensed for 40 mopeds, and they own their property.
The only active dealership in Tisbury is Adventure Rentals, which is owned by Robert Clermont, 55, of Edgartown. He rents space from Leonard Kogos, and his shop on Beach Road behind Xtra Mart is licensed to rent 90 mopeds. The other two licensed operations in Tisbury, Beach Road Rentals and M.V. Strictly Bikes, are not currently renting any mopeds.
Of the eight active dealerships, all but one are diversified enterprises, renting more than just mopeds. Six also rent bicycles, and two also rent cars.
Last week, state Rep. Eric Turkington told the Gazette that one reason legislators were unwilling to back his bills requiring a motorcycle license was the concern that the action would put these dealers out of business.