Florida Keys Business
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Horse-drawn carriage rides come to Keys

ISLAMORADA -- If you're looking to impress a date on Valentine's Day, one Islamorada business owner says he may have just what you need.

Richard Gretzner, a Michigan native who has owned horses all his life, said he wants to bring a classic feature of historic cities like New Orleans, Charleston and St. Augustine to Islamorada.

His company, Island Horse Drawn Carriages, is just getting off the ground and features two carriages that hold up to six people each, two Clydesdales and a quarter horse. Two drivers have recently joined the team.

"We can pick you up and take you to dinner," Gretzner said last week from the back of a carriage while exercising the horses. "We'll also come back and pick you up."

His company is based where he boards his horses at the Reef Side Stables at Mile Marker 80. Leaving from the stables, the tour works it way north on the Old Highway past the Moorings and eventually to the Islander Resort. Gretzner said resort management is allowing him to take the carriages out onto their private beach.

During the horses' daily afternoon workout, many bicyclists and motorists give the carriages a thumbs up, Gretzner said. One afternoon last week, many people smiled or waved with curious expressions on their faces.

"All we have heard are good things," Gretzner said. "We haven't had anyone complain yet."

Standard tours start at $25 per adult and $10 per child for 30 minutes. An hour ride is double the cost.

For a private tour, rates start at $150 for 30 minutes and $250 for one hour. That charge allows up to four people with a pickup from local hotels.

The dinner taxi service offers a shorter route that costs $25 per adult. But Gretzner said passengers will not necessarily have the carriage all to themselves.

With wedding season heating up, Gretzner is also trying to tap into that market.

But that has been a bit challenging for Gretzner, who says weddings are booked months in advance. He said he has only recently started to advertise in wedding magazines.

As to whether his venture will succeed, only time will tell, he said.

"I don't know if we're going to make it or not," he said. "But I'm totally committed and making the investment."

Gretzner said Island Horse Drawn Carriages is also available for private events anywhere in the Florida Keys.

For more information or to book a tour, visit www.islandhorsedrawncarriages.com or call 305-505-0139.

jgore@keysnews.com

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