When you first meet Larry Neville, you’d hardly know he’s the original Cabana Man, barefoot in the sand alongside his team at seven every morning to ensure everything is as it should be for the start of the day. When he first arrived here in 1986 with his business partner, the town of Seaside was dotted with only 20 or so pastel houses, a post office and a few (yet to become legendary) other businesses, and beach service was an unrealized essential.
Neville had just spent a summer working elsewhere in a similar beach service capacity, and he and his then roommate (and business partner) recognized the need for a service that provided comfort and shade along the Gulf Coast’s perfect shoreline. After a string of ‘no thank yous’ to their business plan (from Destin to 30A), they stumbled onto Seaside, a tiny beach community with a big dream.
The holiday town embraced Neville’s business idea, and 10 Cabana Man beach chair sets marked the business’s beginning, Fourth of July weekend in 1986. Cabana Man Beach Services has now grown into a vacationer’s necessity, with more than 330 blue umbrellas standing as a welcoming and expected site along the powdery sand of Seaside’s beaches.
The Cabana Man team starts its day at 7 a.m., set up and ready for sunbathers by 9 a.m. Reservations can be made by calling (850) 231-5046. Club Cabana Man is a step up in accommodation, including towels, tables, and food and drink service.
Traveling by car is for the busy and hurried, and Seaside’s staple mode of transport is simplified into two wheels at The Seaside Transit Authority. A lasting symbol of the simplicity of Seaside is the beach cruiser, with a bell for signaling and a basket for holding fresh breakfast from Modica Market. Bicycles are a necessity for Seaside relaxation, and no one knows it better than owner, Rick Thompson, who left the corporate rat race to provide the town with the simple pleasure of cruising.
While working as the sales and marketing director for Hilton hotels, Thompson said, “Maybe it’s time to take off the suit and tie and beach it for a while; relax and do something fun.” So he and silent partner (Neville of Cabana Man) put together the business plan for “Cabana Man Bike Rentals.” Seaside loved their unique concept, but suggested the name Seaside Transit Authority, a logo that had existed for years as an idea but had yet to find its place until now. And the business began.
The bicycles are no ordinary beach cruisers; they are custom manufactured from Worksman Cycles in New York, made specifically for the Seaside Transit Authority. “These are high-quality, well-maintained, safe, comfortable family bikes,” Thompson said. And the difference is clear, not only in appearance but also in ride.
Tandem bicycles are also available, as well as tricycles, towing gear, and carriage seats for kids. Each bicycle comes with a basket and a bell and is available for daily and weekly rental by calling (850) 231-0035. Bicycles can also be reserved online at www.seasidetransitauthority.com.