You’ve probably seen Segways zipping around airports and the Seattle waterfront. The stand-up scooters on two wheels look like something from a sci-fi movie. Or a hand-truck gone wild.
Thanks to 17-year-old Gregg Jantz Jr., Segways also zip around the quaint town of Edmonds.
What’s up with that?
Gregg started Edmonds Segway Tours with his dad when he was 12. He runs the company that has five seasonal employees and is a full service dealership that rents, sells and repairs Segways.
He did all this without a high school diploma — which he’ll get Friday when he graduates from King’s School in Shoreline.
The business idea was spawned when Gregg, then 11, saw Segways on a family vacation in Hawaii with his parents and younger brother.
“He came running to me begging to take a tour, but he was too young,” said his mom, LaFon. “So they allowed him to go around in the park in Waikiki with his dad.”
Segways had been around 10 years then, but were not widely used. It was the first time Gregg had seen such a thing.
“I thought, ‘Why aren’t these everywhere?’ I had the same visions as the inventor Dean Kamen as a new way of getting around,” he said.
He thought like that at age 11?
“It was very futuristic. I was pretty obsessed with it and the technology behind it,” he said. “I wrote a letter to the CEO and he invited us to the factory (in New Hampshire).”
Before long, Edmonds Segway Tours was born.
They started with one Segway and now have 12.
The business also sells hoverboards, those “Back to The Future”-esque levitating contraptions.
Gregg delved in other things during his high school years. “I bought a 3D printer and made phone cases for people at school and paid off the whole printer,” he said.
He co-wrote a book with his dad, “40 Answers For Teens’ Top Questions,” on topics such as love, bullying and what causes pimples. You can get it on Amazon or pick up a copy for $10 at the Segway store.
Gregg comes from a family of entrepreneurs.
His dad, a psychologist, started The Center, A Place of HOPE, a treatment facility in Edmonds, and has written 37 self-help books.
His mom runs Red Twig Bakery and Cafe. The family took ownership of the popular downtown Edmonds bistro a year ago. That’s where you’ll find Gregg’s 14-year-old brother, Benjamin, too.
LaFon pitches in at the Segway store, doing mom things. She runs the vacuum and hands out water bottles.
The Segway store recently moved to the waterfront spot by Arnies Restaurant that for years was an amphibian center owned by Thayer “The Frog Lady” Cueter and packed with her numerous critters.
The place has a totally different vibe now. It’s sleek and spacious with easy access to wheel Segways out to the marina. I didn’t see any reptiles left behind, but it was hopping with curious passers-by and tourists.
Segway tours are typically offered in big cities. Seattle’s Segway tour goes along the busy piers to the Space Needle and through the Pike Place Market.
Gregg’s customers can choose a guided historic tour around Edmonds to learn about the former timber mills along the coast or a sunset tour that offers a front-row spin to see the sun dip into the sea. People can also rent a Segway and tool around on their own.
On a recent weekday afternoon there were visitors from Mississippi and Michigan who were lured to Edmonds on their travels just to ride a Segway.
Gregg is giving people a ride on unique technology and he’s promoting tourism. About 500 tours were sold during a recent Groupon ad alone. Hundreds more have been sold over the years.
Next up for Gregg: This summer, test for his private pilot certificate and do an internship at a tech company. In the fall, he starts at Seattle Pacific University.
“You can pretty much do anything when you are determined,” he said.
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; email@example.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.
Edmonds Segway Tours
300 Admiral Way, Suite 104, Edmonds; 206-947-5439; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.edmondssegwaytours.com.
Riders must be at least 14. The 90-minute historic and sunset tours are $75. Rentals, self-guided, are $25 for an hour.