BERLIN — Ask Randy Davis how he got into the business of offering carriage rides and he’ll tell you it was by accident.
The Salisbury resident said he was given his first halflinger — the type of horse he uses to pull his carriages — several years ago. He then purchased a carriage so he and his wife could go for drives. It wasn’t long before a friend asked why he wasn’t trying to make money with his horse and carriage.
“Before you knew it, we were in the park doing rides,” Davis said.
The first Christmas season Davis offered rides in a park in Salisbury, 1,100 people stepped into the carriage.
He has since moved the business to Berlin, where he can be found nearly all year, parked with his horse and carriage on a shady side street downtown. On Oct. 19, he’ll begin offering weekend carriage rides in downtown Ocean City.
“We’ll be going right down the Boardwalk,” he said. “People will do it for the experience. It’s never been done before.”
For $10 a person, with children under 3 riding for free, he’ll take visitors on a one-mile route down the Boardwalk. Davis plans to give rides in town until April.
Berlin Councilman Troy Purnell said the enterprise has proven popular in Berlin and he doesn’t see why it wouldn’t be in Ocean City.
“It’s been fantastic for Berlin,” he said as he and his granddaughter prepared to take a ride last week.
In preparation for his expansion to Ocean City, Davis has increased his herd of halflingers to seven. Jake, John, Jerry and Joe have now been joined by Josie, Jules and Ace.
Davis said he increased the herd so none of them get overworked, as he usually takes two each time he offers rides. After one horse has been used for a while, he will unharness him or her and switch horses.
Although the tourist season might be slowing down for some of the local businesses, Davis is just starting to get busy and will need the extra animals.
“October to December is my busy time,” he said.
In addition to his expansion into Ocean City, Davis does a lot of business in Berlin throughout the town’s Victorian Christmas celebration.
Even now, on a weekday of nice weather, Davis will offer as many as 20 rides a day.
While he keeps busy driving tourists through the historic town, Davis said his carriage business still doesn’t generate enough revenue for it to be his full-time job.
“I’d like it to be,” he said, “but we’re not there yet.”
Between the cost of the horses, their daily care and the carriages — Davis has five, ranging in price from $7,000 to $10,000 — along with the time he puts in, Davis said the business is not as lucrative as it may appear.
“You have a lot of time in it,” he said, explaining that each day he brings the horses in, brushes them, cleans their harnesses and hauls them to Berlin. “There’s a lot of maintenance involved.”
Nevertheless, Davis, who has worked with horses his entire life, said he likes the work. He finds the carriage rides as enjoyable as his customers.
“It’s very soothing,” he said, “and I’m very people-oriented.”