By Ned Steele
“Step into my office,” says Mark Toomey, proprietor of Robin Hood Rentals, with a smile.
Which is how you find yourself in the shotgun seat of a bright orange golf cart parked on the tarmac outside the shop, chatting with Toomey about the business of making Key visitors happy with a seemingly endless supply of golf carts, bicycles, scooters, scoot coupes (more about those later), paddle boards, kayaks, beach chairs, gazebos and umbrellas, segways, tennis racquets and more.
Really, Robin Hood’s got pretty much anything you’d need to enjoy life on Siesta Key and to get around on it, except maybe an extra pair of feet.
The “office” is whichever golf cart sits at the head of the row, because every inch of Robin Hood is crammed — outside with rows and rows of vehicles, and in the warren of rooms inside with what the shop just calls “beach stuff.” That includes sunscreen, hoodies, T-shirts, swimsuits, souvenirs and merch, and the like. (No, you don’t rent sunscreen or a shirt. These items you have to buy, and people seem to be doing so, eagerly.)
So, if you want to talk to Toomey about the business, you grab a seat on a cart. Which we did.
The first question, of course: Why Robin Hood?
Because Mark hails from Nottingham, England, the same town where the legendary hero bandit roamed. The analogy ends there: Toomey will rent you anything at a fair price, but the business model does not include either robbing from the rich or giving to the poor.
Back in 2007, Toomey sold his corporate recruiting business in the U.K., hopped the pond, and landed on Siesta Key. “I’d always wanted to do something different,” he recalled.
Two years later he found it. Opening the original shop down the road from its current location at 5255 Ocean Blvd., he rented segways – those self-balancing personal transportation devices popular in the early 2000s. Golf carts were next – Robin Hood takes credit as the Key’s first place to rent them – and the rest just started happening.
Today, between Siesta Key and a second shop on Anna Maria Island, Robin Hood has about 185 golf carts, 40 scooters, more than 300 bicycles, 40 kayaks, and 38 scoot coupes.
A scoot coupe is a three-wheeled, two-person moped that looks like a souped-up version of the foot-propelling toy “car” your parents might have bought you when you were 2 or 3. Brightly colored, they’re a convenient and fun way of getting around a beach town like Siesta Key. They’re popular at Robin Hood.
Perhaps not as much as golf carts. Their use has exploded on Siesta Key in recent years, Toomey said, because “People would rather Uber from the airport and then rent a cart rather than rent a car for the week.”
Robin Hood cart rentals come with free parking in the Village for dining or shopping.
No longer for rent are electric bikes (the county banned them for beach use; “people used to drive them into the water,” Toomey said) or water skis (they didn’t catch on.)
A chilly, damp month like southwest Florida has recently experienced might seem to be a downer for business, but Toomey said the mix just switches.
When the weather turns bad, he explained on a recent such day, “Retail sales go through the roof. With this cold weather, I am selling hoodies and sweatshirts like crazy.”
People flock in from all over the world – Ukrainians and eastern Europeans leading the way – and, of the Americans, Ohio is the most common home state, the owner reported.
Robin Hood knows this because renters must submit a driver’s license and proof of age to take out a powered vehicle. While state law allows 16-year-olds to drive a scooter or cart, Robin Hood limits rentals to 18 years old for a scooter, and 21 for a golf cart.
“You have to protect the equipment – and the renter,” Toomey said.
Road mishaps are rare – “People are mostly respectful,” he added.
Sometimes, though, they are uninformed. Some ask if golf carts are allowed on the beach, as they are elsewhere in the state. “We say very nicely, ‘Absolutely not,’” Toomey said.
But bicycles, umbrellas, chairs, paddle boards and sunscreen are, and Robin Hood has them all for you.
Reserve or learn more at robinhoodrentals.net, or call (941) 554-4242, or just drop in.