ABOVE: Brittany Poe and Brian Stilke, co-owners of Olde Mount Dora Carriages (Mount Dora Buzz photo)
What’s old is about to be brand-new again in historic Mount Dora. After years of romantic horse-drawn carriage rides rolling through downtown, the popular tours came to an end a few years ago. Now a couple of local entrepreneurs are eager to return the nostalgic rides to the area area, but this time with an updated twist.
The shiny new carriages are vintage-inspired, but have a fun sense of glam and have replaced the horses with state-of-the-art and quiet electric batteries. Olde Mount Dora Carriage Company should be operational shortly after Mount Dora City Council approves an ordinance allowing the innovative vehicles to operate on some of the City’s downtown streets, according to Brian Stilke, co-owner of the new venture and an airline pilot. The ordinance is tentatively scheduled to go before the Council in September for a vote.
The other passionate owner is Brittany Poe, who has been in the service industry for several years and is also a local realtor. The two Mount Dora friends collaborated on the idea and eventually plan to have three carriages that operate 12 months a year. One of the new carriages will specifically be designated for downtown tours and another will be available for weddings, private events and custom rentals. The remaining carriage will be a spare for filling in service gaps.
“We both love the tradition and nostalgia of a horse and carriage and recognize the many limitations. We thought the electric carriages would provide the same traditional and nostalgic vibe while creating more possibilities and provide an operation all year round,” said Stilke, who believes Mount Dora will be the first city in the U.S. to offer the innovative electric carriage tours. Electric carriages can operate during warmer temperatures when horse-drawn carriages are sidelined due to the adverse effects of heat on the horses.
All three shiny white carriages feature ornate gold accents, vintage-inspired LED lighting and two diamond-tufted benches for passengers that comfortably seat four adults. Poe and Stilke thought of every detail, including a removable wood table, an ice bucket attachment and glasses for champagne and wine service.
Olde Mount Dora Carriage tours will highlight the area’s landmarks and points of interest, however the exact route of the 30-45-minute, pre-recorded tours will be determined after the City’s new ordinance is passed. The goal is for the carriages to depart and end in the heart of downtown at Sunset Park, which was redesigned with an area for carriages during a previous streetscape project.
Tickets are expected to be approximately $30 per adult and $18 per child, according to Stilke. Carriage rentals will also be available for custom rides and those prices will vary depending on the customers’ requests. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, visit the area's websiteand download the area's free mobile app. Be sure to follow Mount Dora Buzz on Instagram and Twitterfor more local info.