Billy’s Rentals marks 20 years of serving the islands
Billy and Salli Kirkland are celebrating two decades of business on the islands this year.
On Aug. 19, the Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting at Billy’s Rentals on Periwinkle Way to mark the couple’s 20th anniversary in business. Earlier in the month, the Sanibel City Council issued a proclamation at its monthly meeting in recognition of their milestone.
“The island is our home and we care very deeply about it,” Billy Kirkland said.
“I want to thank everybody who has helped us make it to where we are today,” he added. “We are not ready to retire, yet, so we may go for the 25th year.”
Kirkland initially started out renting sailboats and beach chairs on Fort Myers Beach. In 1985, he moved his business to the island and, in partnership with resorts on Sanibel and Captiva, began renting chairs, bicycles and sailboats as Billy’s Beach Service. It also included retail sales of beach items.
In 1999, the couple landed their first brick-and-mortar location – Island Moped, a bicycle and scooter business that stood where Billy’s Rentals is. Island Moped was the only one of its kind on-island.
“There wasn’t going to be a bike shop,” he said of their decision to move into the location. “I think there was a need here for it.”
Kirkland added that having a building enabled them to expand their base.
“So that we could provide the customers the service that we were providing at the resorts,” he said. “So that we could provide that service to the whole island.”
Moving into the old Island Moped building, the couple removed leftover merchandise from the grounds, like Rollerblades. They repainted it what is referred to as “Billy Blue” and yellow.
“I think he must have seen it as a challenge,” Salli Kirkland said her husband and the new location.
The couple explained that there have been some road bumps over the years, such as getting approval to offer Segways and new technology to an increasing sophisticated client base seeking customization. They explained that what once was a business of just single-speed bicycles expanded to include geared bikes, tricycles, bikes with child carriers, Surreys, Beach Cruisers, Duet wheelchair bikes and more.
“I think through it all, the residents have seen that we live here, we care about the island,” Billy Kirkland said.
Over the years, the couple were repeatedly asked by customers if they sold and shipped bicycles, particularly the comfortable thick-tired Beach Cruisers that they loved renting on the island but could not find up north when they returned home. So in 2004, the Kirklands opened Billy’s Bike Shop.
Across from Billy’s Rentals on Periwinkle, it is a bike retail, service and repair business.
“Now we’ve got our own little corner,” Salli Kirkland said.
As a result of Hurricane Charley, the couple established Billy’s Tractor Business in 2004. It offers brush removal and maintenance of parking lots and private roads. The Kirklands also own an off-island warehouse for storage and repairs, plus service and maintain many of the Segways in Lee County.
In 2014, they opened a second rental location in the Bailey’s Center – Billy’s at Bailey’s.
“I feel very lucky, very blessed,” Billy Kirkland said of the success.
For the Kirklands, a priority of their business model is giving back to the community that supports them and ensuring the employees who work for them are happy and taken care of. Having worked for employers in the past, the couple made it a point to set up insurance, 401Ks and such for their staff.
“We have family members who work with us, but we’ve got a very dedicated staff,” he said.
“At this point, they’re all family or feel like it,” Salli Kirkland added.
The couple even purchased nearby properties that it manages as employee housing.
“Some affordable places for some of our employees to live,” she said.
Hosting an annual bicycle safety rodeo at The Sanibel School to educate youths on the “rules of the road” to keep help them safe and recycling bicycles that become a little worn-looking for communities like Immokalee and organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters is just a snippet of their good deeds.
Over the years, the couple has received numerous awards, including The Visitor Control Board Award for Outstanding Hospitality Retail Service, Top Attractions and Good Samaritan awards, The Southwest Florida Blue Chip Community Business Award and the Florida Senate Medal of Excellence for Dedication to the Community.
“We make it a priority,” Billy Kirkland said of giving back.
As for what the future might hold, the couple are mulling over some things.
“We have some ideas in the works, but nothing we’re ready to discuss yet,” he said.
At 1470 Periwinkle Way, Billy’s Rentals offers carbon road bikes, flat bar road bikes, catrikes, tandem bikes and family bikes, as well as Segway tours, beach chairs and umbrellas, and beach wheelchairs. Billy’s at Bailey’s, at 2437 Periwinkle Way, features a selection of rentals, plus stand-up paddle boards.
For more information, visit www.billysrentals.com or call 239-472-5248.
Billy’s Bike Shop is at 1509 Periwinkle Way.
For more information, visit www.sanibelbike.com or call 239-472-3602.