- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

A new company is hoping to make cruising around Ocean City a little less of a hassle this summer.

Russell Rankin, who has residences in Ocean Pines, Md., and Montgomery County, plans to run battery-powered shuttles from Ocean City homes and hotels to the beach beginning Memorial Day weekend.

The fleet of 10 Global Electric Motorcars, built by General Motors, runs on rechargeable batteries and travels on roads where the speed limit is 30 mph or less.

“We meet people at the corner of X and Y streets. They load up their gear, and we go right over to the beach. We do 10 round trips per hour,” said Russell Rankin, owner of e-cruzers.

Mr. Rankin said the cars will cut down on traffic congestion and reduce the hassle of finding a parking spot near the beach.

The six-seat cars, loaded with a camp shower for passengers who wish to de-sand themselves, will be available by reservation in packages, such as a week of round trips for $35. The cars will pick up passengers at select intersections in Ocean City and bring beachgoers across Coastal Highway, Maryland Route 528, to the beach.

“It sounds gimmicky, but it takes really well,” said Mr. Rankin, who began running a single car through Ocean City last summer for free to see whether the idea would work. He said it became popular enough to convince him that it would work as a business.

One-stop franchising

A group of local restaurant executives has formed a company that hopes to put restaurants on the path to franchising.

FranPoint Partners is led by Chief Executive Officer Richard Sharoff, who franchised the MaggieMoo’s Ice Cream & Treatery chain. President Joe Spinelli is a 30-year veteran of restaurant consulting, and partner Paul Stratmeyer was a member of the franchise development group at MaggieMoo’s.

“We’ve learned through experience that there are a lot of needs when franchising,” Mr. Sharoff said. “Just because they know how to make pizza doesn’t mean they know how to franchise.”

Successful restaurants that decide to franchise often don’t have enough people to devote to both the existing restaurant and the franchise plan, or they try to grow too quickly or lose consistency among stores, Mr. Sharoff said. Sometimes, restaurants underestimate the time needed to find the real estate, line up the franchisees and attend to other details.

FranPoint says it will do anything from finding franchisees to consulting through the entire franchise planning process.

The company is already finding franchisees for Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria, King Street Blues and the Green Turtle Sports Bar & Grille, which just opened a company-owned restaurant in the Verizon Center.

On the horizon …

• Tharaldson Development Co. Inc. purchased 8.5 acres in the Inglewood business park at the Beltway and Route 202 in Largo for $2.5 million, according to NAI Michael Cos., the Lanham company that brokered the deal. Tharaldson, a hotel developer and operator in 36 states, plans to build a hotel on the site, according to NAI Michael. It’s Tharaldson’s first site in Maryland.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at [email protected] or 202/636-4836.

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