Port Aransas was built on a carefree lifestyle – the idea that you could leave the daily grind behind for the island life. Hurricane Harvey washed away that image for those who live and work there. Carefree days turned into a grind of insurance entanglements, contractor delays, ferry lines and worry after worry.
But with every storm there's opportunity.
“I’ve been in the golf cart rental business for a really long time,” said Rachelle McCan, owner of Sly Customs. “I have probably the most golf cart rental experience on the island. And everyone kinda just does the same thing. So, I wanted to do something a little different, bring a little flair to the island. A lot of these little hot rods are really popular in California and Florida. So, I just wanted to spice up the island a little bit.”
Her company is the latest – and perhaps splashiest – entrant into Port Aransas’ ever-growing golf cart rental business. She and her husband, Kelby McCan, opened the business this summer, along with a car wash, an ice cream shop and an auto/RV/airplane detailing shop – all on what used to be a self-service car wash.
At 29 years old.
McCan cut her teeth in the golf cart game after leaving Texas State University and moving to the island.
“I managed Bron’s Beach Carts for over six years and pretty much grew that business from the ground up,” she said. After Harvey, she and owner Bron Doyle decided to go their own ways. “You know, I started a family. I have a little girl. So, I decided to do something different.”
These aren’t your dad’s golf carts. These are tricked-out carts that might never be allowed on a golf course.
“It kind of depends on what style people are into,” she said. “We have everything from little hot rods that look like an old Rolls Royce, and then we have our jacked-up, monster eight-seater. That’s great for large families that just kinda want to cruise around, hit the beach. That’s probably our biggest showpiece.”
Sly Customs offers built-in coolers and soundsystems and a distinctive look to each golf cart. The company is a dealer for Streetrod Golf Cars. You can buy a customized cart, or you can rent from McCan’s fleet of 24.
“We love it,” said Jeff Hentz, president and CEO of the Mustang Island-Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce. “It’s part of who we are. It’s not just four-seaters. It’s eight-, 10-, 12-seaters. It’s a great industry. It’s part of our brand. It’s a cool tourism asset to have and it’s just exploded. I mean, it’s close to a $40 million-plus industry right now for our community.”
Of the $400 million tourism industry in Port Aransas, golf carts account for 10 percent of it. Bron’s had around 200 carts before the storm. This season, it has less than half that number, but business it still brisk.
“Even this summer we were kind of worried because of Harvey and everything, but we still had enough business on the island where if you drive around on a Friday or a Saturday, everyone that has a golf cart company, they’re all out,” McCan said.
Her relaxed demeanor belies the responsibilities she has taken on. In addition to the three businesses, she has a 16-month-old daughter. Of course, her husband helps - when he can.
“It’s a pretty busy lifestyle for us and I’m lucky when he’s home,” she said.
Kelby McCan, an Air Force veteran, now works as a civilian defense contractor six weeks at a time across Northwest Africa.
“He works on a CIA base,” she said. “He’s pretty intense.”
She seems to stress only slightly when pressed about the condition of her own house after last year’s storm.
“Ooooh, it’s seen its better days, but it’s coming along,” she said. “We lost the bottom half, so that part is not rebuilt yet. The top is good. It fared pretty well. We’ve got about a year before everything is back to par.”