Sightseers in Myrtle Beach have a new option — a large double-decker bus. White letters strewn across The Big Red Bus’ vehicles invite passengers to take “a tour like never before.”
The company was started by local real estate brokers Shelby Stanley and Tracy Friend, who said they wanted to provide folks in the community a fun new experience. They hope the buses can also help boost the area’s economy.
“It feels great now that we're finally up and rolling,” Friend said. “We’ve been up against obviously a huge crisis in our country and a pandemic, but through it all, we just really have a lot of faith in our company and wish to do great things within our community.”
Friend said Myrtle Beach being a prime tourist destination made it an ideal spot for the new business.
“We thought it would be a great addition here,” Friend said. “It's a beautiful place to live and see and the oceans are absolutely beautiful.”
She noted that double-decker buses are located in other major cities across the country. Friend herself got the idea for The Big Red Bus while in New York City.
So far, the company has two buses, and its owners are looking at adding even more to their fleet, perhaps expanding service for routes based in other Grand Strand communities.
“We certainly would want to be all over the beach, so that it's an overall experience for Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside (Beach) as well,” Friend said.
Each bus was shipped from England before making their way into Florida’s Port of Jacksonville and can hold over 75 passengers.
“We were lucky enough to have an amazing man from London come and take the buses to Alabama to have the roofs taken off,” Friend said. “He is very fluent in this business and is really one of the largest distributors and importers of these double-decker buses.”
While a handful of bus drivers have already been hired, Friend and Stanley both obtained commercial driver’s licenses of their own for their new venture.
“We're hands-on owners, one hundred percent,” Stanley said.
The company has been fully operational for a few weeks but has restricted tour times and scheduling because of the coronavirus.
“Hopefully as fall approaches, we'll continue to get stronger with our tours and our tour times and our scheduling to accommodate the locals and tourists that come here in the spring and fall as well,” Friend said. “We were supposed to start back in March, but things got halted with them shutting down the city, so we were at a standstill like everybody else. And we did the very best we could to hold on and to bring it back slowly and safely for the public.”
Just like at other businesses, different measures are being taken due to COVID-19.
Workers are using masks and hand sanitizer is offered. After every tour, the vehicles are cleaned/disinfected, and social distancing is practiced. Riders are asked not to ride a bus if they are sick, and face coverings are recommended. The top level of each bus should be spacious enough so that each rider can have their own seat, Friend said.
Currently, one can purchase a hop on hop-off ticket, and more kinds of excursions are planned including night and real estate tours.
A bus currently picks up passengers at 9th Avenue North across from the Pavilion Parking Garage. It then travels north through the 21st Avenue North stoplight and to the Broadway at the Beach area. Then, the bus heads down to The Market Common before heading toward Damon’s Grill and continuing up Ocean Boulevard.
Looking forward, Stanley and Friend hope to be able to provide transfer services and shuttling for events.
A bus could be an alternative to using a ride-hailing app like Uber or Lyft — one with a chance to do karaoke or listen to a tour guide, Friend said.
“People might see it and decide, oh, let's hop on and take a ride,” she added, “or they want to sightsee, or they want to go on a private tour to let's say a wine vineyard or a pub crawl. So I think that it's going to be exciting and that people will find the tour that best suits their needs.”
For more information, visit bigredbussc.com.