COEBURN, VA – OCTOBER 22, 2021 – As tourism opportunities have grown in Southwest Virginia, Sarah and Joshua Lucas saw opportunity – not only to provide outdoor recreation for out of town visitors, but to also cater to local residents. As a result, they opened OH Rentals LLC, which provides bike and kayak rentals and two short-term rental units near the Spearhead Trails.
OH Rentals LLC was a recent recipient of a $6,500 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching Grant.
“As tourism in Southwest Virginia has grown, the demand for additional lodging and activities to keep tourists in the region longer is something OH Rentals LLC perceived and took action to create through their short-stay lodging and bike and kayak rental services,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “OH Rentals LLC projects one full-time employee to manage the short-term rentals and seasonal outdoor rentals and two part-time employees to help maintain equipment, perform housekeeping duties, manage reservations and provide shuttle service to get their rentals to customers who are renting them as the business continues to grow.”
Sarah Lucas noted the grant has helped the new business with its plans to purchase three e-bikes and four mountain bikes as soon as suppliers are able to fill those orders. Already, seven kayaks have been purchased.
As the new business opens, plans are to make the rentals available in the evenings and on weekends. Additionally, the Lucas’ are renovating the space at 403 Front Street in Coeburn to provide two two-bedroom apartments for rent as short-term stays. A gathering room and patio on the lower level will enable the hosting of group activities and allow space for guests at the lodging units to have an outdoor option to cook-out and enjoy the outdoors.
“Coeburn is a quaint little town and we really want to see it grow and do well,” Lucas said. “Outdoor activity offerings seem to fit. Since COVID in 2020, the focus on outdoor recreation and short-term rental usage has increased. The VCEDA grant is making it possible for us to do both the kayak and bike rentals at the same time and the ability to start both businesses at the same time is huge for us.”
The business is named after the couple’s two children, Olivia and Henley, taking the first letters of each child’s name to call it OH Rentals, Lucas said.
In their application to VCEDA for funding, the Lucas’ noted that in addition to offering the bikes for rent, special organization rides (scouts, church youth groups, etc.) will be organized and the Lucas’ envision adding more bikes for rent as its customer base grows. The option they will provide to deliver the bikes and kayaks to campgrounds and other spaces where people have rented them is also anticipated to help grow the new business.
“It is our hope that OH Rentals LLC will help Coeburn transform to a tourism destination,” Lucas said. “Together with the other opportunities coming to Coeburn with Spearhead Trails, new restaurants and a coffee shop, OH Rentals LLC will help Coeburn, Wise County and Southwest Virginia to grow as an outdoor recreation tourist location.”
The Lucas’ worked with the Small Business Development Center at Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) in the development of her application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Wise County Industrial Development Authority.
“OH Rentals’ love for the outdoors and experience with Airbnb is a great fit for Coeburn and the surrounding area,” said Becki O’Quinn-Purdie, director of the MECC Small Business Development Center. “The VCEDA Seed Capital Fund helped to boost their outdoor rental equipment inventory for tourists and the community. MECC SBDC has enjoyed working with OH Rentals to support their needs.”
About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.
About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.